Iranian President-Elect Sat on Assassination Council

Secretive government council orchestrated assassinations in the 1990s

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / AP
June 20, 2013

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani sat on the secretive government council responsible for orchestrating the global assassination campaign against perceived enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s, according to a 2008 report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) .

The Special Affairs Council was allegedly tasked with recommending individuals for assassination and implementing the extrajudicial killings after the Supreme Leader signed off on the action.

"After [Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah] Khomeini’s death [in 1989], the responsibility for recommending individual assassinations fell to the Special Affairs Committee. Once the Committee’s recommendation was approved by the Supreme Leader, an individual committee member would be charged with implementing the decision with the assistance of the Ministry of Intelligence’s Special Operations Council," says the report by the IHRDC, a non-profit research institute that was funded largely through U.S. State Department grants until 2009.

Iran reportedly carried out at least 162 political assassinations between 1979 and 1999, with the vast majority taking place in the 1990s.

Rowhani was a special representative for the Supreme Leader on the committee in the mid-1990s, according to the report.

While the Special Affairs Committee’s work is secretive—its existence is not acknowledged in the Iranian constitution—Rowhani has publicly supported a global campaign targeting "counterrevolutionary" elements.

"[Iran] will not hesitate to destroy the activities of counterrevolutionary groups abroad," Rowhani told a student newspaper in 1994.

IHRDC executive director Gissou Nia told the Washington Free Beacon that the political situation is "quite fluid" in Iran and Rowhani’s past record on human rights might not necessarily dictate his future decisions. However, she also said his actions were troubling.

"It’s quite certain he would have been involved in some level of different decisions and policy choices that are not quite appealing," Nia said. "He could not have not know about all of that."

The Free Beacon reported Wednesday that Rowhani sat on the committee when it planned the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, according to a 2006 indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case.

The bombing killed 85 and wounded hundreds more. It is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Argentina’s history.

Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former Iranian intelligence official who defected from Iran in the 1990s, testified about the new president’s involvement with Iran’s state-sponsored terror.

"With regard to the committee’s role in the decision to carry out the AMIA attack, Moghadam stated that this decision was made under the direction of Ali Khamenei, and that the other members of the committee were [then-Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, Mir Hejazi, Rowhani, Velayati and Fallahijan," the indictment said.

Rowhani is being called a moderate despite his relationship with Iran’s Supreme Leader and his involvement with deadly crackdowns on student protests in 1999.