Iran has launched a vast Internet disinformation campaign using radical Web sites and bloggers in Latin America, aimed at deflecting negative publicity arising from Iran’s involvement in a 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, a new study from the Simon Wiesenthal Center has found.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Wiesenthal Center, briefed members of Congress on these disturbing new findings this week, as part of a larger research project into the massive expansion of terror-related Internet sites in the six years since the Sept. 11 attacks.
“What we’re seeing here is the beginning of an Iranian Internet strategy in the Americas,” Rabbi Cooper told NewsMax in an exclusive interview in Washington, D.C.
An Argentinean prosecutor asked Interpol to issue international arrest warrants for eight current and former top Iranian government leaders last fall, after handing down an 801-page indictment on Oct. 25, 2006, that laid out their responsibility for the July 1994 attack in great detail.
The attack, ordered by then-President Hashemi-Rafsanjani, his foreign minister, the minister of information and security, and the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, took the lives of 86 persons and totally demolished the AMIA Jewish in Buenos Aires.
According to prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the attack was orchestrated by Iran’s ambassador to Argentina and by Iranian intelligence operatives, including a sleeper agent from a local mosque who was given diplomatic status by the Iranian embassy to shield him from arrest.
All the Iranians managed to flee the country before they could be apprehended and brought to trial.
When Nisman asked Interpol to issue the “red notices” ordering the arrest of Rafsanjani and his co-defendants, the official Islamic Republic News Agency launched a disinformation campaign alleging that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was behind the 1994 terror attack.
Shortly afterwards, a series of radical websites and bloggers in Latin America “began parotting” the IRNA claims, including a website openly associated with the Revolutionary Armed forces of Columbia (FARC).
The Web site, mamanga.wordpress.com, claims that Jews have launched New World Order conspiracy, and uses classic anti-Semitic imagery.
“You can see how FARC openly parrots the idea that Mossad committed the AMIA bombing,” said Wiesenthal center researcher Rick Eaton. “So this is not just chance.”
Eaton has identified a half-dozen Hezbollah-related websites in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela that picked up the IRNA claims, which the Iranian News Agency conveniently published in Spanish as well as Farsi.
The Wiesenthal Center began investigating the Latin America-Iran digital hate connection after a tip-off from Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a few months ago, whose staff was intrigued when they stumbled across one of the radical websites in Spanish.
And the Iranian offensive is not just limited to disinformation and anti-Semitic propaganda, Rabbi Cooper said. “We found a Brazilian blogger putting up videos of Juba the Baghdad Sniper, and making them available to cellphone users,” he said.
Juba the Baghdad Sniper has become almost a cult figure on jihadist websites, who use the video-taped exploits of the half-real, half-mythical terrorist as an Internet recruitment tool.
Some of the videoclips showing Juba taking aim at American soldiers and murdering them a long distances have been produced in English.
Rabbi Cooper believes the discovery of these Spanish jihadi sites with ties to Hezbollah provides “early warning” of a long-term Iranian effort to penetrate Latin America, working closely with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
“It also shows that the Iranians were stunned by the Nisman indictment,” which for the first time led to arrest warrants of top government officials.
“The Iranians do respond to this kind of pressure,” he added.
Another radical recruitment tool explored by the Wiesenthal Center, “Jihad Hidden Camera,” sets short clips of Americans getting blown up in Iraq to comic sound effects, as if they were skits on "Saturday Night Live."
“What you see is that the Internet is even more important to the jihadis than the IED attacks themselves. The most important of all is to capture the IEDs for the Internet, where they can serve as propaganda and recruitment tools,” Rabbi Cooper said.
Al-Qaida in Iraq is the most active jihadi group on the Internet, the Wiesenthal Center study found. But since the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, the Center’s Internet monitors have seen a dramatic falling off of al-Qaida’s web presence.
“They’ve been too busy dodging bullets to make video clips,” Rabbi Cooper said.
But at the same time, “chatter” on radical web logs of an impending massive strike on America has increased in recent months, the Center’s researchers found.
That finding coincides with similar warnings issued publicly by the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Mike McConnell, and other top intelligence officials, who have said in recent weeks that they expect a major terrorist attack on the American homeland in the near future.
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