Hundreds of people, most of them members of the Argentine Jewish community, attend the commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires July 18, 2007. The signs read, "Justice..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On March 17, 1992, the deadliest attack on an Israeli diplomatic mission was committed by a suicide bomber driving a van packed with explosives who blew himself up in front of Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires.
The explosion destroyed the front of the building, causing the entire consulate and part of the attached embassy buildings to collapse. Eliora Carmon, wife of Daniel Carmon, who served at the time as consul, was killed in the explosion, along with Eli Ben-Zeev, a security officer, Zehava Zehavi and Daniel Ben Raphael, deputy chief of mission. Children at a nearby school and a Roman Catholic priest were also among the 29 killed.
Islamic Jihad, an organization affiliated with Hezbollah and having ties to Iran, later claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In a message delivered to a Beirut news agency, it said the attack was directed against the “criminal Israeli enemy” and vowed that attacks would not cease until “Israel is wiped out of existence.”
The bombing was said to be retaliation for Israel’s killing of Hezbollah leader Abbas Moussawi and his five-year-old son in an air strike on his car in Beirut a month earlier.
The timing of the operation, however, makes it difficult to believe it was carried out to take revenge for those killings.
In fact, there is evidence that Iran decided to carry out an operation in Argentina well before the two were killed.
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Mohsen Rabbani – an Iranian operative based in Buenos Aires who played a key role in the bombing – spent 10 months in Iran, from January to December 1991. According to the late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died under mysterious circumstances, Hezbollah used the Moussawi assassination to justify the bombing to its supporters, but was actually carried out at the behest of Tehran in response to Argentina’s suspension of nuclear cooperation with Iran.
It is difficult to escape one conclusion: The failure of Argentina to properly respond to the embassy bombing emboldened Iran and its Hezbollah proxy to launch another attack just two years later against the AMIA Jewish community center that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
To this day no one has been prosecuted for the two terrorist attacks, though little doubt remains that Iran and Hezbollah were behind them.
The current Israeli envoy to Argentina, Ambassador Ilan Sztulman, has said that the Jewish and Israeli communities cannot tolerate another 25 years without justice.
At a ceremony marking the quarter-century anniversary of the bombing, Sztulman turned to Argentina’s Vice President Gabriela Michetti, who was with him on stage, and said: “Ms. Vice President, we can’t forget. Another 25 years cannot pass with the murderers responsible for this terrible attack still living quietly in Tehran, in Homs.”
There is reason for optimism. Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, who took office in November 2015, has declared on numerous occasions that his government is committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice. Shortly after taking office, Macri canceled the controversial memorandum of understanding signed between Iran and his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, that sought to set up a joint Iranian-Argentinian “truth commission” to investigate the AMIA bombing. But the memorandum was rightly seen as an attempt to whitewash Iranian involvement by incorporating the Iranians in the investigative process.
During the ceremony, Michetti announced a project to declassify Argentinian information about the attack, but more needs to be done.
Iran’s involvement in terrorism, both in the region and worldwide, is well documented. Though it denied involvement, Iran is believed to have perpetrated the July, 2012, bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, that killed six and wounded more than 30. Iran is also the major source of instability in the region – from Syria to Iraq to Yemen.
The Islamic Republic also supports terrorists on Israel’s borders.
We cannot forget the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, not just because of its tragic outcome, but because similar threats coming from Iran continue to plague the free world. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted recently, 80% of Israel’s security problems stem from Iran.
Bringing those responsible for the 1992 bombing to justice would be an important step in pushing back Iran’s inimical influence.
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