Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Key witness missing from House hearing on Iranian terror network



Key witness missing from House hearing on Iranian terror network

Argentina prevents investigator from traveling to Washington

By Guy Taylor

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


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** FILE ** Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican

House Republicans convened a hearing Tuesday hoping to debunk a recent State Department report that said Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere is “waning.”

There was only one problem: The hearing’s star witness — an Argentine prosecutor who recently published a 500-page report claiming Iran has a secret terror network in South America — wasn’t allowed to testify.

The Argentine government’s refusal to allow Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, to travel to Washington and appear before Congress has rankled Republicans who set up Tuesday’s hearing before a subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Reps. Michael T. McCaul, the Homeland Security Committee’s chairman, and Jeff Duncan of South Carolina sent a letter to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Monday, bemoaning her government’s move to block Mr. Nisman’s testimony.

The prosecutor’s investigations into Iranian activities in Latin America reach back nearly two decades to the bombing that killed 85 people at the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA).

The case has never been officially resolved, although Mr. Nisman long has accused Iran of directing the attack and Hezbollah — the Tehran-backed Shiite terrorist organization — of carrying it out.

In late May, Mr. Nisman made international headlines by issuing a new report in which he accused Iran of having established terrorist networks throughout Latin America since the 1980s.

Iranian authorities have infiltrated “several South American countries by building local clandestine intelligence stations designed to sponsor, foster and execute terrorist attacks,” said an article by The Long War Journal based on a summary of the report.

Alberto Nisman’s report sheds critical light on how the United States should understand threats to our homeland that emanate from the Iranian regime,” Mr. McCaul, of Texas, said in a statement Monday. “His investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires shows that the Iranian presence in the Western Hemisphere is greater than we imagined.”

“Iranian infiltration within countries in our region presents a clear and present danger to our homeland, as do attempts to silence or downplay this threat,” Mr. McCaul said. “Mr. Nisman’s testimony should be heard.”

In his own statement, Mr. Duncan, of South Carolina, added, “Iran’s willingness to conduct operations in the Western Hemisphere and on American soil is clear.”

“In contrast to the U.S. State Department’s recent assessment that Iran’s influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is ‘waning,’ Nisman’s investigation revealed that Iran is deeply embedded within countries in Latin America and is ready to exploit its position to ‘execute terrorist attacks when the Iranian regime decides to do so,” Mr. Duncan said.

The State Department report issued to Congress last month concluded that Iran is not supporting active terrorist cells in the Western Hemisphere. The almost entirely classified report found that the number of Iranian officials operating in Latin America has increased in recent years, but that Tehran has far less influence and fewer activities than lawmakers such as Mr. Duncan and Mr. McCaul have suggested.

No one from the State Department was called to testify at Tuesday’s hearing before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, of which Mr. Duncan is the chairman.

Despite Mr. Nisman’s absence, others testifying included Douglas Farah, a former journalist and president of IBI Consultants; Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council; Blaise Misztal of the Foreign Policy Bipartisan Policy Center; and Joseph Humire of the Center for a Secure Free Society.


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