Alberto Nisman, Martin Luther King, Rafic Hariri and the Folly of Political Assassination

There are two distinct types of assassinations. The first involves an attempt to liquidate a military threat, to remove a talented field commander or a brilliant strategist from the battlefield. History is replete with such examples.

A good illustration includes the killing of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the man responsible for planning and executing the Pearl Harbor sneak attack. Acting on precise intelligence, American P-38 Lightenings of the 339th Squadron, 347th Fighter Group intercepted Yamamoto in midflight and sent him along with his G4M1 bomber to the bottom of the Pacific. More recently, Israel’s Mossad executed a brilliant cloak and dagger operation in Damascus in 2008, taking out Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s most capable terrorist and the man believed to be responsible for masterminding the bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Argentina in 1994. As an aside, Mughniyeh’s son Jihad, along with 11 other operatives were killed on January 18, in a precision Israeli strike in Syria.

The liquidation of these two capable, near-irreplaceable commanders had very tangible tactical effects on the ground and adversely impacted both entities. The secondary effect was more psychological. The loss of such senior commanders had an immediate demoralizing influence on Hezbollah and the Japanese Imperial Army and forced them to speculate about how their enemies were able to keep track of and pinpoint their targets with such precision. An assassination of such magnitude necessarily invites paranoia and compels the top brass to seek out traitors, real or imagined, from within which acts as a force multiplier and further hampers enemy operations. Assassinations of this type generally have the desired effect intended by the political and military echelons responsible for ordering it.

The second type of assassination involves political assassination and is most often employed by totalitarian regimes to liquidate a political nemesis who’s perceived to be an enemy of the state. Occasionally, it is employed by a deranged individual who seeks to derail a movement through the murder of its leader.  Unlike military assassinations, these murders almost always backfire and tend to have an opposite effect, propelling the leader’s movement or idea forward rather than altering its trajectory.

The 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King by a deranged white supremacist propelled the American civil rights movement forward. Similarly, the assassination of Lebanese business mogul and politician Rafic Hariri in 2005 by Syrian-backed Hezbollah agents initiated an outpouring of support for Hariri and set in motion a series of events that would eventually lead to the ouster of Syrian occupation forces from Lebanese territory and an end to a brutal 29-year occupation. Those responsible for perpetrating these two murders could not have imagined the boomerang effect it would have but history teaches that with political assassination, this invariably is the case.

On Sunday January 19, Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s indefatigable prosecutor who was set to expose the extent of Iranian involvement in the AMIA bombing and official government complicity in a cover-up of that bombing, was found dead in his apartment with a single gunshot wound to the head from a .22 caliber bullet.

The Argentinian government, led by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, would have us believe that Nisman took his own life. Those who know Nisman and are familiar with his work aren’t buying it for a second. They are convinced, and for good reason, that Nisman’s death was the work of Iranian agents or perhaps Argentinian operatives working at the behest of the country’s highest political echelons.

Whatever the circumstance of his death, one thing is certain; Nisman’s violent removal from the scene will not only fail to derail his exposé, it will propel it forward with rocket-like inertia. Already, Argentinian citizens, cognizant of darker time past, when disappearances and assassinations were commonplace, have taken to the streets en masse to demand justice. Moreover, an Argentinian judge has now released documents and transcripts compiled by Nisman over a 10-year period detailing massive government corruption and attempts by high level Argentinian government officials to shield Iran from its central role in the AMIA terrorist bombing.

The totalitarian mullahs of the Islamic Republic and their venal political allies in Argentina have failed miserably to learn from history. They may have succeeded in physically removing Nisman from the scene but in so doing, have unleashed powerful forces that will invariably lead to their demise.

About the Author
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor. He has authored several articles covering political and military issues concerning Israel, the United States and the Mideast at large.