Iran Wants Interpol Help After Bombing, But Won’t Cooperate With Interpol on Jewish Center Attack

By Patrick Goodenough | October 21, 2009 | 4:59 AM EDT

Former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai, pictured here in his office earlier this year, is one of five Iranians wanted by Argentina for their alleged roles in a 1994 bombing and subject to Interpol "red notices." (AP Photo)

( – Iran has asked Interpol to facilitate the arrest of the leader of an extremist Sunni group linked to a bomb blast Sunday in southeastern Iran. But Iran has refused to cooperate with the international policing agency in the case of five senior Iranians wanted in connection with a deadly bombing in Argentina 15 years ago.
Ironically, while Argentine investigators allege that the 1994 suicide truck bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was masterminded by Iran’s influential Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Sunday’s suicide bombing in Pishin in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province targeted the IRGC.
One of the five Iranians wanted for the bombing in Argentina, former IRGC head Mohsen Rezai, is among the top Iranians now blaming various foreign elements for the Pishin bombing.
The semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday quoted Rezai as saying that Britain, the “Zionist regime” and an exiled Iranian opposition group were responsible. (Others have accused the U.S., Britain and Pakistan.)
At least five senior IRGC officers were among the 42 people killed on Sunday, including the deputy commander of its ground force, Brig.-Gen. Nour-Ali Shoushtari, and the Sistan-Balochistan provincial commander, according to Iranian officials.
An ultra-sectarian Sunni group Jundullah (“Soldiers of Allah”), based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province – across the border from Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan – has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Tehran wants Interpol to help arrest Jundullah leader, Abdel Malik Rigi, the Fars news agency reported.
It said Iran’s national Interpol bureau has sent a request for help to the Lyon, France-based organization, alerting it to the fact that Rigi uses fake identities and aliases while traveling in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Fars said the message also alleged that Jundullah gets financial assistance, weapons and intelligence from “a number of countries,” including the United States.

Iranians carry the coffin of one of the IRGC officers killed in Sunday’s suicide bombing in Pishin, southeastern Iran, during a funeral in the provincial capital of Zahedan on Monday, Oct. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/IRNA)

The report did not say whether Tehran was requesting that Interpol issue a “red notice” – the agency’s equivalent of placing a suspect on a most-wanted list – for Rigi.
In 2007, Interpol issued red notices for five Iranians and a Lebanese in connection with the bombing of the Argentine-Israel Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1994. Eighty-five people were killed in the blast, the worst terrorist attack in Argentina’s history.
Argentine investigators accused Iran of ordering the attack and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of carrying it out.
Iran, which has repeatedly denied any link to the AMIA bombing, refused to cooperate with Interpol, and charged that Jews were behind the attempt to blacken Iran’s name.
The five Iranians subject to red notices are Rezai; the then commander of an IRGC Qods Force special operations unit Ahmad Vahidi; the then intelligence chief Ali Fallahijan; and two officials based at Iran’s embassy in Buenos Aires at the time, Mohsen Rabbani and Ahmad Reza Asghari.
(President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August nominated one of the five, Vahidi, as his defense minister, and Tehran shrugged off Argentina’s protests, accusing it of interference in its internal affairs, under “Zionist” influence.)
The wanted Lebanese was Hezbollah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyah, who was later killed in a bomb blast in Syria.
Argentina also issued warrants for three other senior Iranians – former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and Iran’s ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, Hadi Soleimanpour – but Interpol took legal advice and decided against issuing red notices for them.
Red notices are not themselves arrest warrants but are, Interpol explains, “intended to help police identify or locate these individuals with a view to their arrest and extradition.”
The organization says many of its 188 member countries “consider a red notice a valid request for provisional arrest, especially if they are linked to the requesting country via a bilateral extradition treaty.”
When one of the red notice subjects, Rezai, traveled to Saudi Arabia in mid-2008 along with Rafsanjani, the Argentine government drew Interpol’s attention to his presence there.
No action was taken by the Saudis, however, and the two attended a religious conference hosted by King Abdullah before returning home.
Rezai is now the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council – a consultative body appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – and ran unsuccessfully against Ahmadinejad in the disputed presidential election last summer.
Last week Rezai again traveled abroad without any evident hindrance, this time going to Turkey, where he met with President Abdullah Gul and other officials.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both Interpol members – as is Iran itself.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow