The money will come directly from the US government and thus does not constitute new punitive measures against the Islamic Republic. But it does recall attention to the 444-day hostage crisis, which effectively inaugurated the clerical government brought to power by the Islamic revolution. The Tribune Star report detailed some of the long-term physical and psychological consequences that victims have suffered.
Furthermore, this story emphasizes the outstanding issue of financial compensation, part of which relates to court cases in which Iran was ordered to pay penalties to the victims of terrorist attacks that it sponsored. Some US congressmen have urged the Obama administration to withhold the sanctions relief guaranteed by July 14 nuclear agreement until Iran pays that money, as it has thus far flatly refused to do so. The administration, however, has insisted that the two issues are completely separate.
Consequently, many of the administration’s critics have suggested that the president is effectively ignoring Iran’s past and ongoing support for terrorism and its human rights abuses, in the interest of safeguarding the nuclear deal. European governments have generally been subject to the same criticisms as they pursue expanded trade relations in spite of reports of a domestic crackdown in Iran, and despite the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ presence in foreign conflict zones like Syria and Yemen.
But the majority of the US Congress has pushed back against this trend of apparent neglect. And certain foreign governments have done the same. Iran News Update previously reported that Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Marci had facilitated the cancellation of an agreement with Iran to mutually investigate a 1994 bombing that Iran itself has been accused of orchestrating. And on Wednesday, the Buenos Aires Herald reported that the country’s highest criminal tribunal acknowledged that the Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries was unconstitutional and would no longer be followed.
The changing relationship between Iran and Argentina may initiate renewed attention for to the 1994 bombing, which killed 85 people in the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association building. Investigators generally accept that the attack was carried out by Hezbollah, upon orders from Tehran. Early this year, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was poised to provide evidence of this when he was found dead from a gunshot wound in his apartment.
If Argentina is now prepared to pursue Iran’s complicity, it may also be prepared to broaden its investigation to the modern operations of the IRGC Quds Force, which some reports indicate to still be active in South America. As the Small Wars Journal pointed out on Wednesday, at least some evidence of South American collaboration was evident as recently as 2011, when Quds Force operatives sought to employ Mexican drug traffickers to carry out a planned assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the US in Washington.
The Small Wars Journal presented this story in the context of a much larger report on the persistent terrorist threat posed by the Quds Force. The report quoted a Congressional Research Service document as saying, “Iranian leaders appear committed to a policy of targeting Western interests, not only in places where countermeasures may be comparatively underdeveloped… but, if opportunities present themselves, even in world capitals like Washington, D.C.”
Many congressmen and critics of the Obama administration have expressed concern that such threats would be exacerbated by sanctions relief under the nuclear deal, and this has been a partial motivator for efforts to use the hostage crisis judgements in an effort to forestall that relief. But the Obama administration has maintained that the vast majority of newly-accessed capital would be used by the Iranian government for economic development projects.
This assumption was perhaps undermined by Iran’s current-year budget, which included an approximately 30 percent increase in the budget for the IRGC, which is made up of the foreign-operations Quds Force, a civilian militia, and domestic paramilitary and security forces. Indeed, an article in Counter Punch suggested on Wednesday that these budget-priorities are likely to prevail in the future as well, even though the projected budget for the coming Iranian year is lower than the current one.
The article explained this in terms of an effort by President Rouhani to “pacify” the IRGC at a time when he is pursuing expanded relations with the US, over the objections of some elements of the regime. But other analysts have noted that Iran’s funding of the IRGC has always been strong, even during times of great economic strain, thus suggesting that regime officials as a whole prioritize the IRGC’s operations over most other spending.
This perception is especially relevant to current circumstances, in which the IRGC is acknowledged as a major player in Syria and other areas of the Middle East. Contrary to reports that the IRGC might be withdrawing from its war to defend the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, the NYSE Post reported on Wednesday that Iran and Russia were both expanding their cooperation in Syria.
What’s more, worries are increasing that their continued presence is actually wearing down international opposition to Assad. The duration of his presidency and the identity of groups that would be accepted into future peace talks were both left out of an international resolution on the Syrian crisis, apparently reflecting a desire to not alienate Assad’s defenders.
Assad’s continued rule and Iran’s persistent presence have been blamed for giving the Syrian Civil War a much greater sectarian dimension. The exploitation of such sectarianism seems to provide opportunities for the IRGC Quds Force to develop future footholds in other regions, as well. Among the latest such possibilities is Nigeria, where Iranian militant efforts have been publicly supported by Iran in the wake of a counterattack by the Nigerian government against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
On Wednesday, the Weekly Standard reported that the leader of the group, Ibrahim al-Zakzaky had been radicalized specifically in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. A simultaneous report by the Daily Beast pointed out that the rest of the IMN leadership had been similarly inspired by the establishment of Iran’s theocratic government, such that its website quotes Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei.
The article referred to al-Zakzaky as “Nigeria’s Khomenei” and pointed out that his platforms in Nigerian include vehement anti-Western sentiments like those that have been expressed with increasing frequency by the Iranian supreme leader in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran’s avowed interest in Nigeria’s sectarian conflict thus threatens to provide Iranian hardliners with another ally in operations against Western targets, which some reports indicate have never really halted.