The bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires claimed 85 lives, injured hundreds, and was undoubtedly the work of Iranian-backed terrorists. Two years before, terrorists (also believed to have operated with Iranian backing) leveled Israel’s embassy in Argentina and killed 29. These two attacks are still viewed as indicators of the readiness of Iran and Islamic extremists of Hezbollah to strike at soft targets in Latin America.
Earlier, Argentine and international investigations reported the trail of evidence behind the attacks led to Tehran to senior Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and current defense minister Ahmad Vahidi. With the new agreement, Argentines and Iranians commit to sitting down to calmly and impartially investigate what actually happened.
The government of Israel has rightfully protested the farce. Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald fumed that the agreement is like “making a deal with a suspected killer to jointly investigate a murder.” He concludes that Argentina has irrevocably cast its lot with Hugo Chavez’s pro-Iranian stance.
Under Peronist President Cristina Kirchner, Argentina has flaunted the rule of law, dodged international debt obligations, and engaged in thuggish behavior in a desperate bid to intimidate the Falkland Islands. On the domestic front, the Kirchner regime is waging war on the independent media and has taken statisticians to court for speaking the truth about inflation rates in Argentina.
Once a solid regional partner, still a member of the G-20, and the third-largest economy in South America, Argentina appears to be hurtling toward intellectual, economic, and moral bankruptcy.
The Obama Administration, reluctant to pick fights in Latin America, appeared to give President Kirchner the benefit of the doubt. On January 28, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the U.S. wants the 1994 bombing perpetrators brought to justice, adding that “if the Argentine Government thinks this might take us closer to that, then we’ll have to see.”
Asked about the integrity of the truth commission, she remarked, “I don’t think we are going to have any comment on the particular vehicle.” Wait! Two days later, blinded by the light of reality, the Department of State weighed in: “We are skeptical.… Iran’s record of cooperation with international authorities is profoundly deficient.”
The latest Argentine concession toward Iran again raises troubling questions regarding the state of U.S.–Argentine relations. Why, for example, does Argentina continue to enjoy its status as a Major Non-NATO Ally? As Heritage’s Luke Coffey pointed out in November, the time has come for the White House and Congress to void this arrangement.
At the start of 2013, Argentina hovers just below Washington’s radar screen. It is a simmering pot of diplomatic, economic, and political difficulties for which the Obama Administration has few responses more than hand-wringing and wishful thinking.