Argentina’s flamboyant President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made a a couple of very controversial decisions in recent months, allying herself with dangerous dictators and thereby antagonising the West.
She has been antagonising Britain with her outspoken pronouncements about reclaiming the Falkland Islands , and the received wisdom here to explain her behaviour is that she wants to distract Argentina’s citizens from their domestic economic woes.
“The government is being squeezed from lots of different areas, so one way to distract from the economic problems facing the country is to raise the Malvinas issue,” Professor Mark Jones, an expert in Latin American politics at Rice University in Texas said last year. “It’s one of the few issues outside football that you can get universal consensus on.”
However the latest decision made last month by Kirchner and her government is outrageous in its gall and in its overt siding with a terrorist regime: Argentina and Iran agreed to establish a joint commission of inquiry into the 1984 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed. This is akin to inviting the cat to investigate who licked up the cream.
The discussions have drawn criticism from both Israel and Argentina’s 300,000-strong Jewish community, the largest in Latin America.
Both have demanded there be no let-up in Argentine authorities’ efforts to put the Iranian suspects on trial.
Jewish groups, however, were wary of the negotiations: “Argentina is legitimizing Iran’s style of governance and getting nothing in return,” Guillermo Borger, the president of the Argentine Mutual Aid Association, said.
Israeli official were reportedly “shocked” to hear that the agreement was signed.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said that Israel has “Warned the Argentineans only a short while ago not to fall into the trap that the Iranians will set up for them.
“We are stunned by this news item and we will want to receive from the Argentine government a complete picture as to what was agreed upon because this entire affair affects Israel directly.”
Two Op-Eds published over the weekend attempt, with varying levels of success, to analyse Kirchner’s reasoning behind her reckless decisions.
The New York Times asks “Why is Argentina’s President cozying up to Iran?”
In 2007, after more than a decade of investigations, Argentine prosecutors obtained Interpol arrest warrants for six suspects and formally blamed Hezbollah for staging the attack and Iran for financing it.
But bizarrely, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, abruptly switched course last month and reached an agreement with the Iranian government that would set up a “truth commission” of international legal experts to analyze evidence from the bombings. The agreement, which the Congress approved early Thursday, would allow Argentine officials to travel to Tehran and interview Iranians suspected of involvement in the attack.
The problem is that any recommendations by the commission would be nonbinding; moreover, some of the suspects in the attack are now high-ranking Iranian officials — including the sitting defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi — and therefore untouchable. Indeed, Iran has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Argentine investigators and ignored international warrants for the arrest of senior Iranian officials believed to have taken part in planning the bombing.
Mrs. Kirchner’s decision to abandon Argentina’s longstanding grievances against Iran is particularly galling because it comes just weeks after Bulgaria, another country victimized by Iranian-sponsored terrorism, accused Hezbollah of staging a suicide attack on Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian town of Burgas last year. That attack, like the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, was part of a shadow war against Jewish civilians across the world. Bulgaria’s government, unlike Argentina’s current administration, decided to stand up to Hezbollah and forthrightly accuse it of the crime.
Argentina’s president is undermining her own country’s prosecutors, who have for several years tried to pursue the suspected perpetrators.
Mrs. Kirchner’s decision could open the gates to a major foreign policy realignment in the near future. Her populist government is moving toward the pro-Iranian positions of Venezuela’s ailing president, Hugo Chávez, and further away from those of Brazil, the United States and Europe. According to the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Argentina has started to collaborate on arms deals, including the development of missile technology, with Venezuela and indirectly with Iran.
Mrs. Kirchner has vigorously defended the treaty. It is possible that she believes taking a controversial step toward resolving a longstanding dispute will raise Argentina’s international profile. She may also think that the treaty will increase her party’s popularity in an election year.
But it will do neither. Like the 1982 war with Britain, Mrs. Kirchner’s misguided rapprochement with Iran will only compromise Argentina’s long-term national interests while doing nothing to satisfy the survivors’ yearning for justice.
The ADL in a similar analysis, describes “an unhealthy nexus: Iran and Argentina“:
Argentina now seems set on a path of colluding with the those who stand accused as the perpetrators to replace the Argentine criminal justice process with a vague arrangement that will, at best, further delay justice and, at worst, result in a gross miscarriage of justice. How did we get to this point in which the Argentine government is party to a sham agreement with the Iranian regime?
According to Argentinean and Iranian news reports, it seems the conversations began about two years ago. Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had been on record, several times condemning such allegations. His declarations now prove to be untrustworthy because reality proves different.
What troubles me more is that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in her interest to defend this agreement goes to the point to intimidate the Jewish community through social media and challenges its leaders. Moreover, she implicitly exonerates the Iranian regime from any responsibility in case of a future terror attack.
How can President Kirchner be so blind about who she is talking about?
For more than 18 years the international community supported the Argentine government’s efforts to investigate the AMIA bombing. We cannot support President Kirchner’s intentions to turn away from pursuing justice for the victims.
In the interest of the eighty-five innocent Argentinians killed, the hundreds more who were injured, Jews and non-Jews alike, and their families, justice needs to be served and it won’t be through this agreement as Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and President Fernandez de Kirchner want us to believe.
I don’t believe Kirchner or Timerman or anyone else in the Argentinian government is blind or ignorant as to the implications of such an agreement with Iran. They have obviously made a conscious decision to cross the aisle, abandoning the West in their support for a murderous extremist terrorist-supporting regime. We just have to hope that their South American neighbours who are not already allied with the equally divisive Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez will steer clear of Argentina and remain aligned with the West.