The Iranian government is categorically denying involvement in the discovery of a suitcase full of explosives near the Israeli Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay. In a report carried by Iranian state media, Tehran is said to have responded to the case by claiming that Israeli officials have “ordered attacks” on itself to make Iran look villainous on an international stage.
Iran’s Press TV reports that the Iranian embassy in Uruguay’s capital rejected the notion that their diplomats had any involvement in planting an explosive near the Israeli embassy. The report notes that the embassy argues that the claim an Iranian diplomat was expelled from Uruguay over the incident is “aimed at creating Iranophobia and tarnishing the Islamic Republic’s international image.”
The statement from Tehran implies Israeli officials are directly responsible for planting the bomb: “Tehran has said in the past that Tel Aviv has ordered attacks against its own embassies in India and Georgia in order to damage Iran’s image in the host countries.”
The bomb, Uruguayan officials have noted, left by the embassy was too small to do any significant damage, but could have been planted to evaluate the response time and effectiveness of Uruguayan counterterrorism officials. The day after an individual left the suitcase bomb near the embassy, a senior Iranian diplomat by the name of Ahmed Sabatgold left the country. Uruguayan authorities clarified a Haaretz report claiming that he had been expelled from the country, suggesting that he is a person of high interest with whom they would like to speak, but that he fled voluntarily. Tehran has said that he left the country simply because he had completed his duties as a diplomat there.
Uruguayan authorities have surveillance video of a person dropping off the suitcase, according to national newspaper El Observador. Foreign Minister Luis Almagro noted in public remarks that the video makes it “very difficult” to see any identifying marks on the person dropping off the package, but that Uruguay is working with Israeli officials on using the tape to identify the person. The video’s quality is described as “very bad” and a tree in front of the car from which the individual exits limits visibility.
El Observador also notes that Sabatgold was seen by a guard at the Israeli embassy shortly before the bombing incident.
Iran’s attempts to convince Uruguay that it is not the primary suspect in the bombing– or that its presence in Uruguay is not a threat to that nation’s Israeli and Jewish communities– is failing. Yesterday, Almagro ordered the government to provide “special precautions” for Israeli and Jewish Uruguayans, and the Israeli embassy in Montevideo in particular. Officials speaking to El Observador in a piece published today agree enthusiastically that Iran is among the greatest threats to Uruguay’s national security currently. A number of intelligence agents, who wished not to be named in the article, told the newspaper that they had received orders to “not agitate” relations with Iran, though the Israeli embassy bomb may have changed the national policy on Iran. They note also that an average of ten Iranians a year have been entering Uruguay with falsified documents.
Experts following the expansion of Iran’s international influence have warned that Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group with close ties to the Iranian government, has established significant operations centers in Latin America, particularly in Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay. In Argentina, Hezbollah is suspected of having orchestrated the largest terror attack in that nation’s history– the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA)– and of being involved in the death of Alberto Nisman, a high-level prosecutor who was found dead of a gunshot wound the day before he was to argue before the nation’s legislature that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had helped protect Hezbollah members responsible for the bombing.