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Latin America securityIn Argentina, the tide slowly turns against Iranian terror

By Ben Cohen

Published 9 January 2017

A glimmer of hope in the fight against Iranian-backed terrorism shone forth from Argentina during the final days of 2016. A federal appeals court ruled that former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will face a new investigation over allegations that she and her close colleagues made a secret pact with the Iranian regime over the probe into the July 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

A glimmer of hope in the fight against Iranian-backed terrorism shone forth from Argentina during the final days of 2016. A federal appeals court ruled that former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will face a new investigation over allegations that she and her close colleagues made a secret pact with the Iranian regime over the probe into the July 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Eighty-five people were murdered and hundreds were wounded on that fateful day, when a truck packed with primitive explosives rammed into the AMIA building. But the perpetrators of the atrocity, the Iranian mullahs and their Hezbollah auxiliaries, have escaped justice for more than 20 years. Under Kirchner’s government, the most tangible outcome of the probe into the bombing was to produce its 86th victim: federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment Jan. 18, 2015—the day before he was due to unveil a lengthy, painstakingly researched complaint against Kirchner over her collusion with the Iranians.

Kirchner was defeated in last year’s presidential election, and under her successor, Mauricio Macri, there have been constant hints that the question of justice for both the original AMIA victims and Nisman himself is on the agenda once more. Specifically, Macri promised not to challenge a court ruling that the accommodation reached with the Iranians—formally described as a Memorandum of Understanding—was unconstitutional, and he promised that there would be a proper investigation into whether Nisman’s death was a suicide or, as is far more likely, an assassination.

Since Argentina is saddled with a notoriously corrupt judiciary, it’s hard to predict definitively whether the hoped-for progress will be made in the coming year. Much depends on which judge is appointed to handle the AMIA case. Some of the judges who served under Kirchner may well be guilty themselves of collaborating in the Nisman cover-up, but there are also others being considered for the renewed investigation who are more independently minded.