Iran’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, has shamelessly filled two senior positions in his government with officials who have been plausibly accused of playing a central role in the worst antisemitic attack since the Holocaust.
Raisi is a conservative hardliner whose candidacy was vigorously promoted by Iran’s anti-Western supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Nonetheless, Raisi’s decision to induct Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rezaei into his cabinet is still astonishing, if not shocking.
Rezaei was the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps from 1980 to 1997. Vahidi was the head of its international arm, the Quds Force, in the 1980s.
During this period, a Lebanese suicide bomber affiliated with Hezbollah — the Shi’a militia based in Lebanon and dedicated to Israel’s destruction — blew up the headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in the heart of Buenos Aires.
The blast took place on July 18, 1994 and killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. It occurred a little more than two years after the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed by Hezbollah in an operation coordinated by Iran.
Investigators from Argentina and the United States have determined that six top-ranking Iranian government officials, including Rezaei and Vahidi, conceived, planned and ordered this monstrous violation of international norms.
In 2006, Argentina issued international arrest warrants for them. And a year later, at the behest of the Argentinian government, Interpol tagged these individuals with red notices.
Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., believes the case against the pair is irrefutable.
Since they would be presumably arrested if they travelled abroad, neither Rezaei nor Vahidi have apparently left Iran since 2007. Which means, of course, that they have eluded justice and literally gotten away with murder.
Yet their criminal record is of no concern to Raisi, a former prosecutor whose human rights record is nothing less than abysmal. He has been linked to the mass executions of left-wing political opponents in the first years of Iran’s Islamic regime.
Shortly after his victory in this month’s presidential election, Raisi named Vahidi as minister of interior. Then he appointed Rezaei as vice-president for economic affairs. With these execrable appointments, Iran may now have the dubious distinction of being the world’s only country whose cabinet ministers have been flagged with red notices by Interpol.
Iran is a troubled nation coping with crippling Western economic sanctions, suffering through its worst drought in 50 years, dealing with an upsurge of the coronavirus pandemic, and challenged by severe water shortages and constant power outages.
Yet amid all these immensely daunting and demoralizing problems, Iran’s president chose to invite two antisemitic criminals into his government whom he considers men of distinction, if not heroes. Perhaps he has rewarded them for services rendered in Buenos Aires 27 years ago.
These appointments are a damning commentary on contemporary Iran, a black mark against a historically great nation that has lost its way in the thicket of political extremism and religious fundamentalism.
The people of Iran surely deserve a government that cares about and respects human lives.