On Monday, Argentine authorities announced that gadfly prosecutor Alberto Nisman had apparently committed suicide in his secured apartment. Nisman has long alleged that the Iranian government had a hand in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.
Lately he accused his government of colluding with the Iranians to cover up their connection to the terror attack, because Argentina needs Iranian oil. Nisman’s life and death are steeped in the dirty politics and deliberate ambiguities of the War on Terror, where politicians, courts, and the media routinely deny what the intelligence community knows to be true. It’s easy to predict that his supporters will be unsatisfied with the official account of his death, but questions are being asked far beyond the borders of Argentina.
One of those questioning voices belongs to Christopher Dickey, whose Daily Beast article on Nisman’s death is deeply skeptical of the suicide explanation, noting that Iran and its proxies had means and motive to carry out a hit. Dickey notes that “there are disturbing echoes of the world 20 or 30 years ago when Tehran, often in league with its clients in Hezbollah, waged a global war on the enemies of the Islamic Republic, deploying hit teams second only to the Israelis in their skill at assassination.”
Dickey summarizes the official account of Nisman’s death as follows:
Ten members of the Argentine Federal Police force had been assigned to him as bodyguards, but it seems they were not deployed when he was at home. According to the communiqué, members of the team alerted Nisman’s secretary on Sunday afternoon that he was not responding to repeated phone calls. When they learned that he was not answering the doorbell of his house either and that the Sunday newspaper was still on the step, they decided to notify his relatives.
The bodyguards then collected Nisman’s mother at her home and took him to Le Parc. When they tried to enter, they found the door locked with the key on the inside. They called the building’s maintenance staff who then called a locksmith. Nisman’s mother entered the apartment with one of the bodyguards, and they found Nisman in the bathroom, where his body was blocking the door when they tried to open it. They immediately called police crime scene investigators who entered the bathroom, apparently making as much effort as possible not to disturb the evidence.
Nisman was on the floor with a .22 caliber pistol and one empty shell casing nearby.
The official communiqué does not say explicitly that he died from a bullet wound to the head, but that has been widely reported in Buenos Aires, as has the detail that the documents for his testimony before parliament were arrayed on his desk.
This setting makes it appear that Nisman killed himself because he didn’t want to deliver that testimony to a parliamentary commission on criminal law, where he hoped to begin the process of hauling current President Cristina Kirchner and members of her administration into court. One could infer that either Nisman lost confidence in the 300-page report he had prepared or succumbed to despair that it wouldn’t make any difference, despite pouring years of his life into the investigation.
As Dickey relates, Nisman was deeply frustrated by the official investigation into the 1994 bombing, and he wasn’t the only one. Nestor Kirchner, the former President of Argentina and late husband of the incumbent president, called the investigation a “national disgrace.” Dickey notes that Pope Francis has also decried the lack of convictions after the bombing.
It does seem more than a little odd that a massive investigation of a horrific event would come up completely empty, aside from a handful of arrest warrants for Iranian officials who were in Buenos Aires at the time — unsurprisingly ignored by the Iranian government for the past decade, and ostensibly on the table in secret dealings between the Kirchner government and Iran, according to Nisman’s investigation.
Dickey claims that the intelligence community almost unanimously agrees that Iran was behind the bombing:
At the time, the Israelis were attacking Hezbollah leaders and Iranian clients in Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran struck back wherever they thought they could. “It’s an ongoing game, playing by the rules of the Bible,” a senior official in Israeli intelligence told me at height of the carnage, meaning the rule of eye for an eye, “and at a certain point there is a balance of terror where everyone knows what’s expected.”
Other big-ticket terror attacks conducted around the time of the Buenos Aires bombing were ultimately tied to Iran and its proxies, and as Dickey warns, “there have been signs within the last few days that the game as old as the Bible continues” — Iran’s terror network appears to be gearing up for a new war. Just hours before Nisman’s body was found, Jihad Mugniyeh — son of the Hezbollah boss who allegedly orchestrated the 1994 Buenos Aires attack — was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Golan Heights which also killed an Iranian general who was supposed to be in Syria advising Bashar Assad’s forces but somehow found himself on the Israeli border.
The elder Mugniyeh was killed in a Damascus car bombing in 2008 that has been blamed on Israeli operatives. If so, that would make him just about the only suspected perpetrator of the community center bombing to have faced any sort of justice.
David Horovitz at the Times of Israel is even more convinced Alberto Nisman was a casualty in that war, noting that Iran had good reason to spill blood in Argentina back in ’94, because then-President Carlos Menem was realigning his country away from Iran and toward the West. The Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires had already been hit in 1992, killing 29 people, but that evidently wasn’t bloody enough to reshape Argentinian foreign policy. Horovitz cites “the indefatigable investigative work of one man, Alberto Nisman” for tracing “the worst-ever terrorist attack in Argentina” back to Tehran.
According to Horovitz, the community center bombing rattled President Menem badly enough to put him in fear of his own life, leading to a desultory investigation and cover-up that continues to this day. Unlike most other accounts of Nisman’s death, Horovitz’s piece points out that the late Argentinian prosecutor was “a non-observant Jew.” He notes that Nisman received plenty of death threats, including some that he alleged were delivered to him personally by an Iranian government that accused him of “slandering” it with his relentless investigation. Nisman also believed Iran had seeded the world with sleeper operatives it could activate whenever it needed a terror attack or assassination.
The UK Guardian reports that Nisman already provided the courts with hundreds of pages of evidence “based on phone wiretaps that he claimed showed close aides of [President Kirchner] involved in secret negotiations with Iran to withdraw Interpol arrest warrants for the suspects as a step toward normalizing bilateral relations.” This led to a good deal of official condemnation of Nisman for running a rogue investigation and making “crazy, absurd, illogical, irrational, ridiculous, unconstitutional” allegations… but has anyone disputed the authenticity or content of those wiretaps?
If not, burying Nisman would be a useful first step toward burying his investigation, especially if he can now be portrayed as suicidally deranged. The Guardian says he warned his daughter to expect that he would be slandered by his government adversaries.