Recently, the Argentinean federal prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who is in charge of the investigation of the 1994 terrorist attack against the Jewish headquarters in Buenos Aires (AMIA), issued a comprehensive 500 page report with some startling allegations. The report alleged that Iran’s terrorist networks have a presence in several countries in South America and that Iran plans to establish intelligence bases in every country in order to carry out, promote, and sponsor terrorists.
These allegations are based on a number of reports including factual and legal documentation coming from Europe, Latin America and the United States.
Prosecutor Nisman provided details of how the Iranian terrorist machine operates and also pointed out that the Iranians have a presence in countries such as Brazil, the United States, Guyana, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Trinidad &Tobago and Surinam.
After the report was released, the Iranian government denounced Nisman as being a “Zionist prosecutor”.
Nisman’s declaration and the Iranian government’s reaction seemed to embarrass the Argentinean government. This is understandable since for the last twenty years, the Argentina has failed to successfully follow up on the case or bring those who committed this horrendous crime to justice. Instead, the government, under the leadership of Cristina Kirchner has sought to resolve the AMIA terrorist attack by signing a memorandum of understanding with Iran. The memorandum of understanding was based on the Iranian pledge to cooperate with the investigation.
Some politicians and journalists who support President Kirchner have supported the memorandum based on the notion that Iranians can now be interrogated. According to them, this is a major step since the investigation has been stagnant for years. A well-known journalist invoked the case of Muammar Gadhafi of Libya who agreed back in 1993 to hand over those who blew up PAN Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. According to this journalist, Gadhafi’s actions were the result of negotiations.
Of course, what this journalist argues could not be farther from the truth. Libya was under heavy United Nations sanctions including the freezing of Libyan funds and financial resources in other countries. Likewise all air traffic to and from Libya was barred and a total western trade embargo was imposed on the nation including the banning of equipment for oil refining and transportation. These sanctions were to be lifted only if Gadhafi handed over the perpetrators. Gadhafi finally did so through leaders such as Nelson Mandela and the Prince of Saudi Arabia. There were no negotiations with Libya, only credible sanctions that damaged the oil industry and the economy of the country. In addition, the year when Libya agreed to negotiate an agreement, the United States invaded Iraq and deposed Sadam Hussein. This acted as a major deterrent for Gadhafi, as well.
Argentina has no credible deterring factor against Iran that would force their government to admit anything What is more, according to the memorandum of understanding; the recommendations of the truth commission are not binding.
President Kirchner delivered a speech to the Argentinean Argen Congress a few months ago that was quite telling. In that speech she pointed out that she is interested in knowing not only what happened from outside but what happened inside: who undermined the investigation? Why evidence was hidden? ”.
Kirchner noted that one of the goals of the commission would be to denounce who deviated from the investigation and with what purposes. Kirchner is right that there was obstruction of justice and irregularities in the investigation. However, it is far from clear why involving the Iranians can serve justice better. I do not blame her for believing that the Argentinean justice system is spoiled and corrupt but why believe an Iranian-backed commission is the solution? This is surrealistic.
Kirchner also pointed out a few months ago that she has always suspected that the “Iranian track” was the result of the “manufacturing of a case that had no legal grounds”. This is particularly astonishing coming from the president since it challenged the credibility of the prosecutor himself, who conducted the investigation under the government of Kirchner’s late husband, Nestor Kirchner.
The chief prosecutors of this verdict, Alberto Nisman and Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who declared Iran responsible for the attacks, were appointed and loyal to President Nestor Kirchner.
But now Kirchner views the judiciary as an obstacle to her prerogatives and has not wasted efforts to limit its power, particularly after the opposition newspaper “Clarin” won an injunction against the government.
So a government initiative has passed in the Argentinean congress that changes the way in which magistrate councils (in charge of picking federal judges) are chosen. Until now such councils had been composed of a mixed group of individuals chosen by politicians, judges, lawyers and academics.
The reform called the council to be elected by a popular vote like the president. In this way, these councils would be politicized instead of being selected by merits. The reform also placed a limit of six months against any ruling that affects a government policy.
This supposed reform came after an appellate court ruled that the government’s policy of forcing the newspaper network “Clarin” to sell assets was unconstitutional.
Nisman’s report will be another reason why Kirchner will most likely rush to strip the judiciary of its powers in an effort to shatter its independence. The good news is that Nisman’s report symbolizes the constitutional powers that are refusing to succumb to Mrs. Kirchner’s absolutism.
Cristina Kirchner is not interested in solving the AMIA case. She is interested in strengthening relations with Iran and in reinforcing the anti-American coalition created by Hugo Chavez, who was and continues to be a role model for the Argentinean president.
The victims of the terrorist attacks served the Kirchners’ desire to accumulate political capital. As such, Nestor Kirchner embraced the AMIA tragedy and the demands for justice in 2003. Now the families of the victims, the Jewish community, and justice itself are all expendable as President Cristina moves to ignore Nisman’s report; patch up the entire affair; and completely let the Iranian perpetrators off the hook.
But what is worse Kirchner’s benevolent polices towards Iran set a dangerous precedent.