Nineteen years ago today, an Iranian-backed Hezbollah operative rammed a truck bearing 500 pounds of explosives into the primary Jewish community center (AMIA) of Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds more.
Only two years earlier, a suicide bomber backed by Iran carried out a similar attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people. In 2006, after almost a decade of investigating the AMIA bombing, Argentine prosecutors indicted high-ranking Iranian officials for planning, financing and authorizing the Hezbollah attack. Yet, still to this day, none has been brought to trial.
Surprisingly, rather than continue holding the perpetrators of the most devastating terrorist attack ever carried out in Argentina accountable, as they had since 2006, the Argentine government announced on Jan. 27, 2013, (International Holocaust Memorial Day) that Argentina will revisit the incident and allow Iran to participate in a so-called Truth Commission.
Effectively dismissing its own investigation that fingered high-ranking Iranian officials, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner explained that the commission would allow her country to “move forward with this case and walk along the road to finding the truth.”
In reality, opening this case to a commission allows the Iranian regime, the largest state sponsor of terror, to set back the inquiry’s conclusions and pivot sharply from the truth.
Both President Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, champions of the Truth Commission, contend that reopening the investigation will help move the case forward. Involving Iran, they argue, will force its leadership to acknowledge the validity of the investigation and then take action.
But a vocal opposition, comprising politicians, journalists and Argentine Jewish community leaders, argues that allowing the Iranian government to participate in a commission that implicates its own highest ranking officials — including two candidates in the most recent Iranian presidential elections — will unquestionably invalidate the “truth” they seek and whitewash Iran’s role. Just as it refused to act even after Argentina handed over its indictments to Interpol, the Iranian terrorist regime will not hand over members of its own.
Iran should not be rewarded for its refusal to respect the international mechanisms for carrying out justice. A terrorist state’s intransigence must not tarnish the judicial process and international legal standards. Unfortunately, Argentina’s recent actions are aiding Iran’s obstruction of justice. Earlier this month the Argentine government denied permission to Alberto Nisman, the lead state-appointed investigator of the terrorist attack, to present to a U.S. Congressional hearing his 500-page report based on eight years of investigations into the growing influence of Iran in South America.
Although 19 years have elapsed since Iranian-funded operatives blew up Argentina’s largest Jewish center, that does not diminish the moral and legal obligation of achieving justice. Not holding Iran accountable for its terrorist actions will only embolden its rulers to continue building terrorist networks, backing Syria and Hezbollah’s massacre of Syrian civilians and denying the Holocaust with impunity.
Indeed, 18 years to the day after the AMIA bombing, an Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist killed six innocent civilians when he attacked a bus filled with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. As we continue to marshal global efforts to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability, it is imperative that governments, like Argentina’s, send the right message so that the Iranian rulers internalize the price of their actions.
A “Truth Commission” that allows the Iranian rulers to revise the atrocities carried out by its own will only give them a platform to lie.
Aaron Sagui is spokesman for the Embassy of Israel to the United States.