Rushing to Judgment on Bus Bomb

In rushing to judgment blaming Iran for a bus bombing in Bulgaria, Israeli officials and neocon writers cited the conventional wisdom about Iran’s authorship of a bombing in Argentina in 1994. However, the investigation of that case was deeply compromised by political pressure, recalls Gareth Porter for Lobelog.

By Gareth Porter

Immediately after the terror bombing of a busload of Israeli youth in Burgas, Bulgaria, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a “senior U.S. official” expressed certainty about Iran’s responsibility. Since then, the White House has backed away from that position, after Bulgarian investigators warned against that assumption before the investigation is complete.

Similarly, it is generally assumed that Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for the terrorist bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, because U.S. and Israeli officials, journalists and commentators have repeated that conclusion so often. It was the first reference made by those who were most eager to blame the Burgas bombing on Iran, such as Matthew Levitt and Jeffrey Goldberg.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at Cabinet meeting. (Photo credit: Israeli government)

But that terrorist bombing 18 years ago was not what it has come to appear by the constant drip of unsubstantiated journalistic and political references to it. The identification of that bombing as an Iranian operation should be regarded as a cautionary tale about the consequences of politics determining the results of a terrorist investigation.

The case made by the Argentine prosecutors that Iran and Hezbollah committed that 1994 terrorist bombing has long been cited as evidence that Iran is the world’s premier terrorist state. But the Argentine case was fraudulent in its origins and produced a trail of false evidence in service of a frame-up. There is every reason to believe that the entire Argentine investigation was essentially a cover-up that protected the real perpetrators.

That is what I learned from my ten-month investigation in 2006-07 of the so-called AMIA bombing (the Spanish acronym for Argentine Israelite Mutual Association), the results of which were published in early 2008.

William Brencick, who was then chief of the political section at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires and the primary Embassy contact for the investigation of the AMIA bombing, told me in an interview in June 2007 that the U.S. conviction about Iranian culpability was based on what he called a “wall of assumptions” — a wall that obstructed an objective analysis of the case.

The first assumption was that it was a suicide bombing, and that such an operation pointed to Hezbollah, and therefore Iran. But the evidence produced to support that assumption was highly suspect. Of 200 initial eyewitnesses to the bombing, only one claimed to have seen the white Renault van that was supposed to have been the suicide car. And the testimony of that lone witness was contradicted by her sister, who said that she had seen only a black and yellow taxicab.

That is only the first of many indications that the official version of how the bombing went down was a tissue of lies. For example:

The U.S. explosives expert sent soon after the bombing to analyze the crime scene found evidence suggesting that at least some of the explosives had been placed inside the community center, not in a car outside.

The engine block of the alleged suicide car which police said led them to the arrest of the Shi’a used car salesman and chop shop owner who sold the car, was supposedly found in the rubble with its identification number clearly visible — something any serious bombing team, including Hezbollah, would have erased, unless it was intentionally left to lead to the desired result.

Representatives of the Menem government twice offered large bribes to the used car dealer in custody to get him to finger others, including three police officials linked to a political rival of Menem. The judge whose bribe was videotaped and shown on Argentine television was eventually impeached.

Apart from an Argentine investigation that led down a false trail, there were serious problems with the motives attributed to Iran and Hezbollah for killing large numbers of Jewish citizens of Argentina. The official explanation was that Iran was taking revenge on the Menem government for having reneged, under pressure from the Clinton administration, on its agreements with Iran on nuclear cooperation.

But in fact, Argentina had only halted two of the three agreements reached in 1987 and 1988, as was revealed, ironically, in documents cited by the Argentine prosecutor’s report on the arrest warrant for Iranian officials dated October 2006 (unfortunately never made available in electronic form).

The documents showed that the Menem government was continuing to send 20 percent enriched uranium to Iran under the third agreement, and there were negotiations continuing both before and after the bombing to resume full nuclear cooperation.

As for Hezbollah, it was generally assumed that it wanted to avenge the Israeli killing of its “ally” Mustafa Dirani in May 1994. But when Hezbollah really wanted to take revenge against Israel, as it did after the Israeli massacre in Qana in 1996, it did not target civilians in a distant country with no relationship to the conflict with Israel; it openly attacked Israel with Katyusha rockets.

It is not clear yet who committed the latest terrorist bombing against Jewish civilians in Burgas, Bulgaria. But the sorry history of that Buenos Aires investigation should not be used to draw a premature conclusion about this matter or any other terrorist action.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006. [This article originally appeared at Lobelog.]


  9 comments for “Rushing to Judgment on Bus Bomb

  1. incontinent reader
    July 23, 2012 at 2:35 am

    As a followup to Mr. Porter’s excellent article, the Information Clearing House, July 22, 2012 issue, has an illuminating interview with Annie Machon, whistleblower formerly with MI-5. In she discusses a number of black flag operations, including a car bomb attack on the Israeli Embassy in London that a top internal report in MI-5 attributed to the Mossad as a black flag operation to get more police protection and also set up the most effective Palestinian political
    activist group in Great Britain at the time. It resulted in the framing and imprisonment of two Palestinian leaders for 20 year prison terms, and the breakup of the group.
    It can be accessed at:

  2. July 23, 2012 at 8:19 am

    On July 17, 2012 – Abraham Foxman, head of Israel lobby group ADL in a statement urged Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to investigate Iran’s involvement in the bombing and “work to counter Iranian influence in Latin America“. MP Kirchner visited Israel in 2005 where she was lauded being a “great friend” of Argentinean Jewish community (largest in South America).

    Adrian Salbuchi on March 2, 2008 wrote in his column titled War in the Middle East: The Final Countdown: “Argentina’s judiciary is thus acting on the requirement of Bush administration and powerful international and local pro-Israel Zionist lobbying organizations on Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, demanding that he falsely accuse Iran for that terrorist attack. Indications are that Mr. Kirchner bowed to this manipulation in spite of the fact that after more than twelve years since that attack, the United States, Israel, and key Zionist organizations have not been successful in fabricating sustainable proof of any involvement on the part of Syria, Iran or Hezbollah. At the same time, Argentina’s judiciary and intelligence agencies have systematically ignored much more plausible circumstances and evidence which point to the fact that this criminal attack may very well have been the result of deeply embedded conflicts INSIDE of Israel, in particular, and zionist interests in general.

  3. borat
    July 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Islamists do Better than Nazis

    70 years after the brave people of Bulgaria stopped the trains for Treblinka, 6 Israelis are massacred there just because they are Jews.

    After Toulouse, where three Jewish children and a rabbi were gunned down last March by a French Islamist, Europe witnesses another massacre of Jews.

    At least 8 people were killed, 6 of them Israelis, and over 30 others were injured in a terror attack on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas, east of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

    We are waiting to know which Islamic hand is behind the new bloodbath of Israelis. “Exactly 18 years after the terror attack at the Jewish community building in Argentina, the murderous Iranian terror continues to harm innocent people. This was an Iranian terror attack,” PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated.

    On July 18, 1994, Buenos Aires witnessed the most lethal anti-Semitic attack outside Israel since the Holocaust.

    In Bulgaria, it’s already becoming certain that Islamism is proving to be more efficient than the Nazis.

    On March 9, 1942, an order arrived from Berlin to deport the 50,000 Bulgarian Jews. Adolf Eichmann’s office was ready to “operate”.

    In the morning, Czar Boris II flew to Berchtesgaden to ask Adolf Hitler why he needed the Jews. Reluctant to admit the fact of the gas chambers, Hitler answered that the Jews must build roads. “Roads are also needed in Bulgaria,” answered the king.

    According to rumor, the Germans poisoned Boris II: the royal plane returned to Sofia with a dead king. His brother, Prince Cyril, a Germanophile, became regent, but Bulgaria arose, and the Parliament, the intellectuals, the ordinary people, everybody protested against the Jews’ deportation.

    In some Bulgarian towns, the Jews were assembled to be put on trains. But the trains couldn’t be loaded until Czar Boris signed a proclamation authorizing the deportation.

    In Plovdiv, the capital of South Bulgaria, the military governor was a sadistic anti-Semite. He assembled all the Jews and locked them up in the Jewish school. But not a single Jew could be deported.

    There are stories of human kindness, such as Christians who wore the yellow Star of David in solidarity with their Jewish friends.

    The Bulgarian people were the only people in Europe (apart from the Danes) who went out of their way to save the Jews.
    There are stories of courage, like that of the vice president of the Bulgarian parliament, who mobilized members of parliament to oppose the plan to deport Jews.

    The salvation of the Bulgarian Jews was due to the refusal of Christian and Muslim Bulgarians to acquiesce in the killing of their Jewish brethen. It also raises the question of how many other Jews died because their fellow citizens stood silent.

    At the end of World War II, the Jewish population of Bulgaria was larger than it had been in 1940. And 90 per cent of Bulgarian Jewry left for Israel in the early 1950s.

    The Bulgarian people were the only people in Europe (apart from the Danes) who went out of their way to save the Jews.

    Just as Toulouse’s recent slaughter is connected with Vichy’s France, which surrendered native Jews to the Nazis, using their own police force to organize and execute the task, the attack in Burgas has a historic meaning too.

    Seventy years after the brave people of Bulgaria stopped the trains for Treblinka, 6 Israelis have been massacred there just because they are Jews. The Islamists have managed what the Nazis could not.

    It’s the new Europe. A Jew-free continent.

    Who are the new Eichmann’s?

    The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book “A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.

    • ilse
      July 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Islamists do Better than Nazis?

      Make that: Israelis do better than Nazis.

      “70 years after the brave people of Bulgaria stopped the trains for Treblinka, 6 Israelis are massacred there just because they are Jews.”
      You have no proof, whatsoever. Just your usual ranting and raving and whining. Call me antisemitic, if you like. I despise you.
      Your post is idiotic and wrong. Just propaganda as always. You will not get any sympathy from the world with your whining and accusing and war mongering.

      • Borat
        July 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm

        You’re just a nazi apologist period. Where are the 6 million Jews you idiot?

        WASHINGTON—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his government has gathered “unquestionable” intelligence showing that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind a suicide bombing in Bulgaria last week that killed five Israeli nationals.

        Mr. Netanyahu, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said the attack in a Bulgarian seaside resort matched an operation in Cyprus earlier this month, involving an alleged Hezbollah operative, that Israeli and Cypriot intelligence foiled.

        Enlarge Image

        Gali Tibbon/ Press Pool
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mossad and other Israeli intelligence services have acquired other information linking Hezbollah and Tehran to the attack on Wednesday in Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli nationals.
        The Israeli leader said Mossad and other Israeli intelligence services have acquired other information linking Hezbollah and Tehran to the Wednesday attack. He said the two have cooperated in plotting attacks against Israel and other Western targets in 24 countries over the past two years.

        “Iran and Hezbollah have been carrying out these attacks, in all these countries,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “We have unquestionable…intelligence that this was done by Hezbollah backed by Iran.”

        The Obama administration hasn’t publicly blamed Iran or Hezbollah for carrying out the attack in Bulgaria. But U.S. officials privately said the tactics used in the attack, particularly that of a suicide bomber targeting Israeli civilians abroad, bear a resemblance to past operations jointly carried out by Tehran and Hezbollah.

        They specifically cite the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. An Argentine magistrate has indicted both senior Iranian and Hezbollah officials for being the masterminds of the bombing.


        Bulgarian investigators are focusing on a possible lead to Sweden as they attempt to determine if the suspected bomber has roots in Scandinavia, a person familiar with the investigation said.

        Police haven’t found any matches for the alleged bomber’s fingerprints so far, and Swedish forensic scientists are analyzing DNA samples taken from the suspect in Bulgaria—so far without success, the person said.

        Investigators are focusing on Sweden in part because the Scandinavian nation hosts one of Europe’s most active Hezbollah chapters, and because Iranian intelligence services are active there, the person said.

        Bulgarian police also are attempting to trace the origin of an alleged accomplice, the person said.

        Mr. Netanyahu said his government would retaliate against Hezbollah and Iran, but didn’t offer specifics. He said the Bulgaria attack underscored why Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

        “The only way to stop terror after you’ve exposed it is to make sure that terror doesn’t pay,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “If you don’t stop it, it gets worse and worse and worse.”

        Israel’s prime minister also on Sunday for the first time publicly said his country might be forced to intervene in Syria if evidence emerges that President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other extremist groups.

        “We will have to consider our action. Do I seek action? No. Do I preclude it? No,” Mr. Netanyahu said in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

        Next Saturday, the Republican Party’s presumed presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, will visit Israel and meet with Mr. Netanyahu. The Israeli leader said he would stress to the American politician the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, his desire for peace with the Palestinians, and the need to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

        “I’ll tell him about Israel’s desire for peace and our concern about the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

        Iran and Hezbollah have denied playing any roles in the Bulgaria attack. Tehran denies it is developing nuclear weapons, and says it is seeking nuclear technologies for civilian purposes.

        On Sunday, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, Iran’s vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told state media that the country has developed the capability to produce nuclear fuel to power merchant ships and submarines.

        Currently, Iran is enriching uranium to 20% purity levels to power a research reactor in Iran. But the nuclear fuel needed for operating submarines and tankers usually requires uranium enriched to levels as high as 90%, which is weapons grade.

        Israeli officials have privately warned Washington and the United Nations that Iran might use the excuse of doing research for its submarine program as the rationale for producing weapons-grade fuel.

        Mr. Abbasi-Davani said his government would notify the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, if it is going to produce nuclear fuel for submarines or merchant ships. He said that the decision currently hasn’t been made.

        “We have the capability to design reactors to [power] vessels and submarines, but presently a production of fuel over 20% is not on our agenda,” Mr. Abbasi-Davani was quoted as saying by Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency.
        —David Crawford contributed to this article.
        Write to Jay Solomon at

        A version of this article appeared July 23, 2012, on page A6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Israel Says Intelligence Ties Hezbollah to Bulgaria Attack.

        • July 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

          Well Israeli Zionazi idiot – Rabbi Wolf Gunther Plaut (d. 2012), former president of Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) and Chief Rabbi at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple stated in his 1990 book “The Man Who Would Be Messiah” wrote that your “six million” Jewish brothers and sisters were despatched to G-d by their fellow Farnkist Jews.

          • Borat
            July 24, 2012 at 9:21 am

            You’re one sick S.O.B.

    • W Weelan
      July 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      borat . . No need to beat the bushes here – you must be mentally retarded
      to write such nonsense in regard to this bus bombing in Bulgaria,for sure.
      I`d go even further by calling you > the typical vile Zionist instigator trying,as always,to regurgitate the same old,same old lines of unrelated fabricated Bullshit we have been told for years – only for them to be exposed as ridiculous pathetic Lies >and pointing away from the criminals.

      This > Who are the new Eichmann’s? is reflecting your real weird mindset!

      If anything,the recent bombing in Bulgaria was carried out by the always evil Israel’s Mossad terrorist group,known to be behind Iran scientists’ murders,as well as several other assassinations,believes a CIA report.

      • Borat
        July 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

        You for a starter….

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