Iran To Investigate JCC Bombing
Why is Argentina letting Iran examine the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, a crime Hezbollah surely committed?
On July 18, 1994, a massive car bombing leveled the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds. That there have been no arrests after almost 20 years, that the initial investigations foundered and were marred by incompetence and corruption, is what led Argentina’s former president, the late Nestor Kirchner, to call the case a “national disgrace.” Apparently that message didn’t get through to his widow, current President Cristina Kirchner, who late last month announced that Argentina was partnering with the Islamic Republic of Iran—the country allegedly responsible for the attack, and one in the business of murdering Jews— to establish an independent international “truth commission” tasked with examining evidence and recommending how to proceed “based on the laws and regulations of both countries.”
The timing of the announcement (International Holocaust Day) and the manner of its delivery (Kirchner’s Facebook page and Twitter feed) has only added insult to injury. “Historic,” Kirchner called the agreement, “because never will we allow the AMIA tragedy to be used as a chess piece in a game of faraway geopolitical interests,” she added with no apparent sense of irony. The reality is that the purpose of the agreement is to bury the case entirely. It’s not a truth commission, but a deal: In exchange for Buenos Aires handing Tehran a diplomatic coup, the Iranians will do their part to help rescue a moribund Argentinian economy through investment and trade.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon likened the formation of the truth committee to “inviting the murderer to participate in the murder investigation.” It’s a fair assessment. From the outset, the Iranian regime was believed to have been responsible for the AMIA Jewish community center attack, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 and injured 242.
But it wasn’t until October 2006, when Argentinian special prosecutors officially charged that it had been carried out by a team of Hezbollah operatives, including the late head of the terrorist group’s external operations unit, Imad Mughniyeh, under the direction of the highest authorities in Tehran. An Argentinian court issued arrest warrants for Mughniyeh as well as six senior Iranian figures, among them former President Ali Rafsanjani and current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi. According to the report that the special prosecutors presented the judge in the case, a group called the Special Affairs Committee, which includes Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Rafsanjani, convened in the Iranian city of Mashad on Aug. 14, 1993, to approve the attack.
Iran, of course, has long denied any involvement in the AMIA attack, and its intense diplomatic efforts to shirk responsibility seem to have finally paid off. Mutual commercial interests and shared ideological sympathies have brought Argentina and Iran closer than ever before—and this so-called truth committee is only the latest evidence of the increasingly close alliance.
First, there’s the pragmatic reason for the Iran-Argentina relationship. The Argentinian economy is foundering. Outstanding World Bank and Paris Club debts have cut off Argentina’s access to international credit markets, and Iran, under heavy U.S. and E.U. sanctions, needs trading partners. “The Argentinian government is desperate for money,” Pablo Kleinman, a Latin America policy analyst, told me. And with the value of Iran’s currency plummeting due to sanctions, it is coming to rely more heavily on Argentina’s agricultural exports, which help keep food prices down within Iran. “Argentina is making overtures to a number of third-world countries besides Iran,” Kleinman said, “especially energy rich-dictatorships, like Angola and Algeria, to get them to invest.”
The late New York mayor told me he wanted to be remembered by my son Daniel Pearl’s final words: ‘I am Jewish.’