Guest blog post by Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.)
He is wanted by Argentina for a terrorist attack. He is listed by the E.U. as a person linked to Iran's proliferation activities. He appears on an Interpol "Red Notice." He is...Iran's new Defense Minister.
Yesterday, the Iranian "parliament" approved the appointment of 18 cabinet posts. Three were not approved. When the roster of all 21 nominees was announced the other week, Ahmadinejad's selections faced criticism from parliamentarians for being too inexperienced. But that changed over the course of the debate, handing Ahmadinejad a (needed) victory, going 18 for 21.
Ahmad Vahidi, Ahmadinejad's Defense Minister pick, was the most popular amongst Iranian lawmakers, winning the highest vote tally. Apparently his experience impressed. He is one of six Iranians being sought by Argentina for the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish cultural center that killed 85 people and left 300 wounded. It was the worst terrorist attack in Argentina's history; carried out in coordination with Iranian intelligence. According to one news account, an Argentine intelligence report posited that the attack was motivated by not only a hatred of Jews, but a “desire to punish the [Argentine government] for rescinding the commitment of [its] predecessor...to provide Iran with know-how and equipment for its nuclear reactors.” Vahidi once headed the Quds Force, the stealth arm of the Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations overseas.
Shouts of "Allahu Akbar" echoed in the parliamentary chamber when Vahidi's vote total was announced. Earlier shouts of "Death to Israel" bellowed out as his nomination was debated. After the vote, the new Defense Minister called his selection a "decisive slap to Israel." A State Department spokesman chimed in to call this development "disturbing." That's putting it mildly. Many Iranians have taken to the street, bravely pushing for democracy and opposing zealotry. Vahidi isn't one of the good guys.
Congressman Royce represents California's 39th district and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.