US Marks Anniversary of Iran-attributed Bombing of Argentina Jewish Center
The 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires killed 85 people and injured hundreds more
The US House of Representatives passed a resolution commemorating the July 18, 1994, bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires – which killed 85 people and injured hundreds more – and called on authorities to apprehend the perpetrators.
“The investigations into the AMIA bombing have been marked by long delays and by judicial misconduct, failing thus far to bring justice for the victims, their families, and their community,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism, and one of four lawmakers who introduced the bill.
“Considerable evidence has linked this heinous attack to the terrorist group Hizbullah and its sponsor, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Deutch added.
Indeed, security services identified Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a member of Hizbullah, as the AMIA bomber, and in 2007, Interpol placed numerous Iranian suspects on its most-wanted list.
By then, the Argentinian judiciary had appointed prosecutor Alberto Nisman to examine the case, and he quickly reached the same conclusion.
Years later, in a 2015 formal complaint, Nisman alleged that former Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, had attempted to cover up Iranian involvement in the AMIA attack and another in the capital – a 1992 suicide bombing at the Israeli Embassy that killed 29 people. Kirchner and Timerman reportedly sought to bury evidence in exchange for economic benefits such as free Iranian oil.
Only days after making the accusation, and on the eve of presenting his findings to the Argentinian Congress, Nisman was found shot to death in his apartment.
“The entire society was taken by surprise because it was the first time a prosecutor [issued] such a charge against [Kirchner],” Damian Pachter, an Argentinian journalist who covered the case, told The Media Line. “The other effect is that it polarized Argentina into those who were favor of the president and those who rejected [her government].”
Pachter contends that Kirchner used the nuclear negotiations between then-US president Barack Obama and Iran as cover for her own dealings with the Islamic Republic.
“On a narrative level, that is how Argentina defends its relationship with Iran. If Obama is negotiating with [Tehran], why can’t we?” Pachter asked rhetorically.
He qualified, however, that “the difference [between the parallel engagements] was that an Argentinian court found Iranians responsible for the bombing. [Both Argentina and Iran] were caught with their pants down.”
The US congressional resolution comes amid a volatile standoff between the US and the Islamic Republic, which Washington accuses of orchestrating numerous recent attacks on ships in the Gulf, as well as using its proxies to target American interests in Iraq and critical infrastructure, including civilian airports, in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, Iran earlier this month announced it had exceeded the 2015 nuclear agreement’s 300-kilogram stockpile limit for 3.67-percent enriched uranium and that it would begin enriching to 4.5% purity, hinting broadly that it would next aim for 20%.
Experts have warned that the move could shorten the timeframe needed for the Iranian regime to produce the 90%-enriched uranium required for a nuclear bomb.
Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump this week said progress had been made toward reducing tensions with Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adding that the Islamic Republic was prepared to reenter negotiations related to its ballistic missile program.
The dual assertions came as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that his country would continue advancing its nuclear program in contravention of the nuclear pact, from which President Trump withdrew in May 2018. Moreover, a spokesperson for Iran’s UN mission rejected the claims, writing on Twitter that Tehran’s “missiles… are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period.”
The Trump Administration has imposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic, with a view to forcing it back to the negotiating table to address, among other things, its “nefarious” activities spanning almost every continent.
“Twenty-five years later, Iranian-backed Hizbullah continues to carry out terror operations,” said Rep. Deutch. “With this vote, [we] honor the victims of [the] horrific AMIA attack, recall the brave work by Alberto Nisman, who lost his life pursuing justice, and call for full accountability for those responsible. It has been far too long.”
According to Dr. Shaul Shay, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a major problem is that the bombing “was a long time ago, so it’s not easy to bring to justice those who were involved. One important step,” he proffered, “was to [proscribe] Hizbullah as a terror organization. It is already on the list in the US and some European countries, but the [group] should be [blacklisted] by all nations.”
Indeed, Shay believes the failure to do so has allowed Tehran and its Lebanese proxy to maintain their capabilities to operate around the globe.
“It is important to take into consideration that Iran is the [world’s] leading state-sponsor of terrorism. In the last two decades, al-Qaida and Islamic State attracted more attention, but Hizbullah is no less dangerous,” Shay concluded.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, sirens will blare throughout Buenos Aires at 9:53 a.m. – the exact time of the 1994 truck bombing – after which a memorial will be held at the rebuilt AMIA building. Later in the day, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri will hold a ceremony to introduce a book containing 25 terrorism-related essays written by global leaders, including President Trump.
Pompeo on Friday will travel to the Argentinian capital, where he will participate in a Western Hemisphere anti-terrorism summit. He is also slated to visit the AMIA center to pay tribute to the victims.
Events marking the anniversary will take place throughout Israel as well.
(Tara Kavaler contributed to this report)