The established narrative holds that a Hezbollah suicide bomber, with the support and collusion of Iranian officials drove a white Renault Trafic van containing a bomb up to the premises and exploded it, killing 85 and injuring hundreds. It suggests that Iran, angered by the breakdown of negotiations with Argentina over Nuclear Technology, conspired with Hezbollah to carry out the attack.
The investigation responsible for this version of events was conducted by judge Juan José Galeano and based its findings on the evidence of one Carlos Telleldín, alleged to have provided the van used in the bombing and that of Abolghasem Mesbahi, an alleged former Iranian intelligence officer. Judge Galeano issued warrants for the arrests of 12 Iranians, including Hade Soleimpour, Iran's ambassador to Argentina in 1994. Britain's Home Office refused to deport Soleimpour due to lack of evidence.
The investigation has been described by former President Nestor Kirchner as a "national disgrace". Here is why:
Charles Hunter, explosives expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms team sent to investigate, found that the blast pattern evidence proved that the explosion occurred inside the building, not in the street.
A witness on the street survived despite being fully exposed to the blast had it originated in the street. The person standing close to him and to whom he had just been speaking was killed. This person was standing in front of the main doors, in the path of an internal explosion.
Of some 200 witnesses on the scene, only one claimed to have seen a white Renault Trafic in the street that day.
Parts of the vehicle were alleged to have been found in the rubble. The engine block was complete with serial number - a piece of evidence rarely, if ever, left by serious perpetrators. Gabriel Levinas, a researcher for AMIA's own legal team, discovered that fragments of the car found at the site had been tested by the manufacturer and found never to have been subject to high temperatures, either in the explosion or in the fire which the car matching the engine number was known to have suffered before being repaired.
In August 2005, Judge Galeano was impeached and he was formally removed from his post as a federal judge for "serious" irregularities and his mishandling of the investigation. This is hardly surprising as a video broadcast on Argentine TV showed him offering his main witness, Telleldín, $400,000, in return for evidence.
Galleano's witnesses to the Iranian connection, Abolghasem Mesbahi and two others, were revealed to be members of the Peoples Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US and is dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian Republic.
Argentina was continuing to provide Iran with low-grade enriched uranium and the two countries were in serious negotiations on broader nuclear cooperation at the time the bombing occurred. The U.S. was putting huge pressure on Argentina to cease all cooperation with Iran. It is unthinkable that Iran would sanction an attack on Argentine soil at that time.
It would make little sense for Hezbollah to plan and execute this complex operation then deny responsibility. The rationale of terrorism demands recognition or the act is rendered practically valueless.
The alleged suicide bomber, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, was killed in Lebanon two months after the AIMA bombing according to his family and Lebanese Radio. No DNA was taken from his head which was allegedly retrieved after the blast and soon discarded.
In an interview last May James Cheek, Clinton's Ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, told me (Gareth Porter), "To my knowledge, there was never any real evidence [of Iranian responsibility]. They never came up with anything." The hottest lead in the case, he recalled, was an Iranian defector named Manoucher Moatamer, who "supposedly had all this information." But Moatamer turned out to be only a dissatisfied low-ranking official without the knowledge of government decision-making that he had claimed. "We finally decided that he wasn't credible," Cheek recalled. Ron Goddard, then deputy chief of the US Mission in Buenos Aires, confirmed Cheek's account. He recalled that investigators found nothing linking Iran to the bombing. "The whole Iran thing seemed kind of flimsy," Goddard said.