In 2013, Iran and Argentina signed a memorandum to lead a joint investigation of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
In July of 1994, a man drove an explosives-laden van into the headquarters of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), killing 85 people and injuring over 300. The bombing is the deadliest terrorist incident ever to occur on Argentine soil.
In 2006, Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused Iran’s paramilitary force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), of planning the AMIA attack and its Lebanese proxy force, Hezbollah, of carrying it out. However, there have been members of Argentina’s political leadership who have consistently sought to block any investigation into the matter.
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Among them was former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is now serving a six-year prison sentence for corruption. When Fernandez came to power in 2007, the country signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran. Together with Interpol, the two governments agreed to form a truth commission.
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Several Jewish community groups in Argentina, including AMIA, filed a petition calling the memorandum unconstitutional. They argued that the evidence of Iran’s involvement in the bombing was undeniable, and that it provided no benefit to the victims of the attack or to Argentina. ,
Nisman also opposed the memo, calling it “misplaced interference of the executive branch”, and accused President Fernandez and his government of trying to cover up Iran’s involvement.
Nisman also compiled a 300-page dossier on the Kirchner government’s efforts to cover up the AMIA incident. Butt was shot dead in January 2015, before he had a chance to present his findings to Congress. His murder case and AMIA bombing case are still open.
Later that year Mauricio Macri replaced Fernández, with his Ministry of Justice quickly rescinding the memorandum. Israel’s former and most likely next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised the move as a “welcome change of direction” for Argentina and expressed hope that relations with Tel Aviv would improve.
However, the seizure of an Iranian-Venezuelan Boeing 747 in Buenos Aires last June added another twist to an unfolding drama. The plan had a crew of 19 people, of whom 5 were Iranians. Some had clear ties to the IRGC and the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. It was also learned that such flights to Argentina have been a regular occurrence for some time.
This has raised many questions about Iran’s security and military presence as well as political influence in Argentina. For example, the pilot of the seized aircraft, Gholamreza Ghasemi, is a ranking officer in the Quds Force, the same security branch that orchestrated the AMIA bombing.
Just an Argentine cover-up?
Members of the opposition and judiciary have accused Macri’s government of hiding these flights to Argentina by regime-affiliated Iranian-Venezuelan planes. Many current Argentine government officials are the same people who signed the AMIA memorandum under Fernandez.
Last July, a group of US Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Biden administration demanding justification for their delay in providing Argentine law enforcement officials with key information on Iranian suspects in the Boeing case. I. He believed that the administration was aware of the extent of the IRGC’s cooperation in South America, but was withholding information so as not to undermine efforts to revive the JCPOA.
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Last August, Argentina arrested four Iranians with fake French passports who had possible ties to the Revolutionary Guards. He was arrested at the Izeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires as he intended to board a flight to Amsterdam.
Arrest warrants for the four were issued by federal judge Federico Villena, who is also in charge of the investigation into the Boeing case.
In October, a month after protests broke out in Iran, Argentina released a Boeing 747 cargo plane with 5 crew members still in custody. Federal Judge Federico Villena determined that there was no basis for prosecuting the crew. However, the judicial inquiry will still be open.
Although the matter appears to be closed at this point, the IRGC’s active presence in South America can still be used to thwart the JCPOA for good. Flight records also show that the same Boeing plane made a brief stop in Moscow before flying to Buenos Aires.
In light of all these developments, Washington should find no reason to appease Tehran’s theology with a revised nuclear deal. Hopefully, the JCPOA will eventually enter the archive of failed deals with dictators.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.