The four men first sought out Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat al-Muslimeen, and Adnan el-Shukrijumah, an al Qaeda operative who grew up in Brooklyn and South Florida and fled the United States for the Caribbean in the days before the 9/11 attacks. Unable to find Shukrijumah, the plotters "sent [co-conspirator] Abdul Kadir to meet with his contacts in the Iranian revolutionary leadership, including Mohsen Rabbani," according to a news release issued by the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York.
One co-conspirator was Kareem Ibrahim, an imam and leader of the Shiite Muslim community in Trinidad and Tobago. During cross-examination at trial, Ibrahim admitted that he advised the plotters to approach Iranian leaders with the plot and use operatives ready to engage in suicide attacks at the airport. In one of the recorded conversations entered into evidence, Ibrahim told Russell Defreitas -- a plotter who was a JFK baggage handler and a naturalized U.S. citizen -- that the attackers must be ready to "fight it out, kill who you could kill, and go back to Allah."
Documents seized from Kadir's house in Guyana demonstrated that he was a Rabbani disciple who built a Guyanese intelligence base for Iran much like his mentor had built in Argentina. In a letter written to Rabbani in 2006, Kadir agreed to perform a "mission" for Rabbani to determine whether a group of individuals in Guyana and Trinidad were up to some unidentified task.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Rabbani also oversaw the education and indoctrination of Guyanese and other South American Muslim youth, including Kadir's children, in Iran. Kadir was ultimately arrested in Trinidad aboard a plane headed to Venezuela, en route to Iran. He was carrying a computer drive with photographs featuring himself and his children posing with guns, which prosecutors suggested were intended as proof for Iranian officials of his intent and capability to carry out an attack.
In 2011, not long before the last defendant in the JFK airport bomb plot was convicted, evidence emerged suggesting Rabbani was still doing intelligence work in South America. An April 2011 article in the Brazilian magazine Veja, citing documents from the FBI, CIA, and Interpol, reported that Rabbani "frequently slips in and out of Brazil on a false passport and has recruited at least 24 youngsters in three Brazilian states to attend 'religious formation' classes in Tehran," according to an article in the Telegraph.
In the word of one Brazilian official quoted by the magazine, "Without anybody noticing, a generation of Islamic extremists is appearing in Brazil."
The growth of this Iranian extremist network in South America has immediate repercussions for the security of the United States. The same day that Nisman and the State Department released their reports, an Iranian-American used-car salesman from Texas was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in an Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States at a popular Washington restaurant. In the assessment by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, this plot "shows that some Iranian officials -- probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime."
Strangely, one of the countries most vulnerable to this terrorist threat appears more interested in placating, rather than opposing, the country responsible. In February, Argentina approved a deal with Iran for a joint "truth commission" to investigate the 1994 AMIA bombing -- a step that insults the Argentine victims of the attack and makes a mockery of the rule of law. Of course, Nisman, Argentina's own special prosecutor, left no doubt in his 2006 report and his latest 500-page report about the truth of who was behind the bombing -- Iranian agents.
The State Department has it right: There has indeed been a "marked resurgence" of Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism over the past 18 months. But as the new Nisman report drives home, here's an even more disturbing fact -- Iran has run intelligence networks in the United States' backyard to "sponsor, foster and execute terrorist attacks" for decades.