Sao Paulo’s Israeli Federation is protesting a planned visit on July 29 to Brazil by Iraqi-born Iranian Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, who has referred to Israel as a “cancer” and reportedly keeps close ties to the both the Iranian government and its terror proxy Hezbollah.
Araki is visiting the country to attend a conference organized by the Iranian government for Shiite Muslims in the country and is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at an event titled “Muslims and the Fight Against Radical Terrorism” in Sao Paulo. He has served as Iran’s “Secretary-General of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought” and a personal representative of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran.
The Israeli Federation of Sao Paulo issued a statement on its website condemning Araki’s presence in the country. “With close ties to the Hezbollah group, Mohsen Araki will arrive in the Paulista capital next week and, curiously, will speak on confronting terrorism and radicalism. In a movement where polarizations are taking over society, speeches of hate only serve to ignite worrisome sparks in our country.”
“We cannot allow dangerous manifestations of discrimination, destruction, and rage to be sown in our country, importing here a conflict that we do not want to see in our land,” the statement, signed by organization president Bruno Laskowsky, concludes.
The AMIA bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the Western Hemisphere before September 11, 2001, and killed 85 people. While it remains officially an unsolved crime, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman unveiled significant evidence tying the Iranian government to the bombing before being found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in 2015.
International media have found much evidence tying Araki’s to Iranian interests and extremist Islamic thought. The magazine Veja published a story in anticipation of his visit claiming that Araki once called Israel a “cancer that should be extirpated from the Middle East” during a meeting with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. The magazine also claims that “on his official Facebook page, the religious leader makes no secret of his ties to Hezbollah and its extremist positions.”
In Afghanistan, the news site TOLO once reported, citing Iran’s official Mehr news agency, that Araki invited “moderate figures such as Taliban” to an “Islamic Unity Conference” in the Iranian capital, meant to unite Sunni and Shiite “moderates” like the Iranian government and the Taliban. The article quotes Araki as confirming that he invited “some Islamic and political figures in the Taliban movement who believe in the unity of Muslims.”
Iran’s HispanTV, a propaganda project aimed at Latin America, covered a speech Araki delivered in London on Wednesday, reporting that “dozens of young Muslims have received a message of peace and justice from the hands of Ayatollah Araki.” Araki reportedly spoke on “the challenges that face young Muslims in the West.”
Veja reports that Brazilian police will be monitoring the Islamic unity event featuring Araki by order of the Ministry of Justice.
American officials have monitored Iran’s attempts to infiltrate Latin America for years, particularly its growing diplomatic ties with rogue states like Cuba and Venezuela. In 2016, the U.S. State Department cited Hezbollah as a threat to the region “with members, facilitators, and supporters engaging in activity in support of the organization. This included efforts to build Hizballah’s infrastructure in South America and fundraising, both through licit and illicit means.”
A year earlier, a Breitbart News report unveiled that Iran had begun rapidly constructing Shiite “cultural centers” throughout Latin America dedicated to converting Christian Latin Americans and run by both Hezbollah and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force.” The U.S. government was aware of at least 80 such cultural centers at the time.
As of July 2017, no Latin American country has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization.