Monday, February 28, 2011

The AMIA Jewish Community Center attack in Buenos Aires, 1994

One of the Wikileaks that has just become public relates to the 1994 bombing of AMIA, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died. It was one of the worst terrorist attacks on the time and one of the deadliest anti-Semitic terrorist incidents ever, and it has been generally blamed on Iran. The AMIA attack is often cited as evidence of Iran's ability to carry out major terrorist attacks worldwide.

But the evidence is by no means so terribly clear. Argentine journalist Gabriel Levinas called attention to some of the problems with the position taken by the Administration of then-President Carlos Menim blaming Iran in his book La ley bajo los escombros. AMIA: lo quo no se hizo (1998).

In 2007, Argentine prosecutors sought charges against seven former officials for misconduct in the investigation of the AMIS attack. As Gareth Porter explains in Argentine Report Casts Doubt on Iran Role in '94 Bomb Inter Press Service 11/13/2007, the official investigation of the attack has dubious credibility in Argentina, due to "a bribe by the lead judge to a key witness and a pattern of deceptive accounts based on false testimony." As he explains at some length in that article, Argentina's government at the time had a uranium-sharing agreement with Iran, part of a cooperation between the two countries on civilian nuclear power that the Clinton Administration was pressing Menem's government to end. That cooperation raises questions itself about what Iran's motivation would have been to stage the AMIA attack.

The Wikileaks revelation published by El País (Juan Jesús Aznárez, EE UU sospechaba que la reapertura del caso Amia respondía al oportunismo del Gobierno argentino 22.02.2011) that the Cheney-Bush Administration pressured Argentina in 2008 to drop charges that had been brought against former President Carlos Menem and others over irregularities in the investigation ofthe AMIA attack. The Cheney-Bush Administration was worried that the trials could cast doubt on Iran's role in the 1994 bombing, which is still used as a key propaganda accusation against Iran.

I should note that nothing that has emerged in the public record to my knowledge definitively exonerates Iran from any role in the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack. But neither has the case been settled. This Wikileaks story shows that the Cheney-Bush Administration wasn't eager to have Argentine authorities digging into information that might cast further doubt on Iran's alleged role in the attack.

The leaked cable of 05/27/2008 is available here from El País.

Other stories on this issue:

Alejandro Rebossio, La justicia investiga al alcalde de Buenos Aires por presunto espionaje El País 07.04.2010

Irán acusó a la Argentina de "injerencia en sus asuntos internos" Clarín 23.08.09

D'Elía dijo que va a demandar a un familiar de la AMIA Clarín 23.08.09

"Irán debe responder a la Justicia argentina", dijo el presidente de la AMIA
Clarín 23.08.09

Gareth Porter, Bush's Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up The Nation 02/04/2008 issue (apparently published 01/18/2008)

Gareth Porter, US Officials Rejected Key Source on '94 Argentina Bombing 01/24/2008

Gareth also did an interview on the subject with Antiwar Radio's Scott Horton on 01/22/2009.

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