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The Holocaust-Denying Cleric Bolstering Hezbollah in Argentina

June 7, 2021
Florencia Montaruli
4 min read
Mohsen Ali heads the House of Diffusion of Islam in Argentina and has retained ties with the government while promoting the Islamic Republic's ideological interests
Mohsen Ali heads the House of Diffusion of Islam in Argentina and has retained ties with the government while promoting the Islamic Republic's ideological interests
Pictured here in an interview with HispanTV, the Spanish-speaking arm of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Ali has publicly denied the Holocaust on multiple occasions
Pictured here in an interview with HispanTV, the Spanish-speaking arm of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Ali has publicly denied the Holocaust on multiple occasions

His name is Mohsen Ali, though his identity card says otherwise. The cleric known as Gabriel Leandro Alí was born in Argentina, where he currently lives and works at the Flores neighbourhood mosque in the capital, Buenos Aires, and as director of the country’s House of Diffusion of Islam.

So far, so unremarkable. But Mohsen Ali is also well-known in Argentina for his recognized status as an antisemite and facilitator of pro-Hezbollah propaganda in this Latin American country.

From the comfort of his office in the Mosque of the Flores neighbourhood, on being pressed by a journalist from the newspaper La Capital, Ali said he defined himself as a man of peace. “As I understand it,” he said, “Islam is to be at peace with God, and when one is at peace with God, in general, one is also at peace with the environment in which he lives, with his fellow man and, most importantly, with himself.”

But history tells a different tale. In 2015, Mohsen Ali was named in a complaint by then-prosecutor Alberto Nisman as being one of the key facilitators of communications between Iranian fundamentalist groups and their representatives in Buenos Aires.

In this structure, Nisman linked Ali to the former cultural attaché of Iran in Argentina, Mohsen Rabbani, who is accused of co-masterminding the 1994 bomb attack on the AMIA building. The incident left 85 people dead and hundreds injured in the worst recorded terror attack on Jews in Latin America. Rabbani, in turn, was one of the five Iranians that the former government of Cristina Kirchner tried to protect through a bilateral pact with Iran. Alberto Nisman was poised to denounce this, but was then found dead in January 2015 in his apartment in Buenos Aires.

Mohsen Ali is also recognized in Argentina for his public statements in support of Hezbollah. In 2006, during armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, Ali tirelessly participated in television programs defending the positions of the Lebanese designated terror group. He led marches against Israel, waving banners bearing the Hezbollah flag, many of which culminated in clashes, riots and Molotov cocktails being thrown by members of Fernando Esteche’s militant leftist Quebracho Organization.

Ali also infamously suggested to the former judge in the AMIA case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, that the attack on "be investigated as self-sabotage”: that is, suggesting the Jewish community had perpetrated it themselves. Along the same lines, on more than one occasion Ali has denied the Holocaust in public.

Fabián Neiman, a member of the Federal Council of the Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations (DAIA), has confirmed that Mohsen Alí also still maintains a very close relationship with the former president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner (now vice president of the country).

“For more than a decade,” Neiman states, “Hezbollah, which attacked AMIA, has been invited by Cristina [Kirchner] to political events, through the personage of Mohsen Alí, who also has a permanent office at the Patria Institute [a political organization created by Kirchner]... Hezbollah now also has a permanent office at Patria Institute.”

IranWire was able to confirm whether this is the case, but Mohsen Alí is a founding member of the Patria Institute’s collective of Religious Communities and Cultural Identities. The wider organization was created in 2016 by Kirchner and functions as the center of her political-partisan activities, also helping to indoctrinate future militant members of her political party. Mohsen Ali is understood to have provided training programs.

Asked about his ties with the Argentine government, all Mohsen Ali has had to say on the matter is: "The social postulates that Cristina has are consistent with those of Islam. As an Argentinian, I have my heart there, and I mediate in that space.”

Waldo Wolff, a national deputy and member of the Argentine Jewish community, told IranWire he was outraged entirely by the former Argentine government's outward displays of closeness with Hezbollah and the causes it promotes.

"In this country, they dropped two bombs on us,” he said. “You cannot put on an officious face every July 18 [the anniversary of the AMIA attack] and afterwards hug those who approve of Hezbollah. We take our children to Jewish schools, and we take care of Hezbollah, accused by the Argentine justice system of having attacked AMIA. We see how our compatriot politicians embrace those who shelter them.”

Wolff refers here to pictures that have circulated online of Mohsen Alí hugging several of current Argentine government officials, including the country's Foreign Minister, Felipe Solá. In 2019, Mohsen Ali also attended the launch event for Sincerely, Kirchner’s book, observing the event from the fourth row in a seat specially reserved for him by the former president.

In the words of the late Nisman, Mohsen Ali facilitated communication between Tehran and Buenos Aires when the infamous pact with Iran was being orchestrated. His past record makes the fact that he maintains close ties with the country’s current vice president worrying in the extreme.

Related coverage:

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Dangerous Relationship Between Venezuela, Iran and Hezbollah

Business or Terror? Key Figures Denounce Iran's Incursions in Venezuela

Venezuela's Clans Usher Hezbollah in Through the Front Door

Tip of the Iceberg: Hezbollah’s Narco-Terrorism in Latin America Exposed

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