Justice for AMIA: Interpol & Argentina vs. Iran

There is a country and an international organization willing to stand up to the Iranians. Earlier this week Interpol voted overwhelmingly (74-14 with 26 abstentions) to issue a red letter calling for the arrest of five Iranians accused by the Argentine government of orchestrating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish communal offices (known as AMIA) in Buenos Aires. This move may not bring real justice to the AMIA victims, but it is a small step in the right direction and it sheds important light on the nature of the Iranian regime.

Interpol’s red letter placed five Iranians and Hezbollah’s notorious director of external operations on its most wanted list. This move will probably not bring the perpetrators of the bombing to justice. Interpol has no power to enforce these arrests. Countries that abide by international standards are likely to comply; countries that evade international standards do not comply. Iran is notorious for evading international standards, on issues large (such as the nuclear program) and small (such as keeping politics out of the Olympics).

Unsurprisingly Iran lobbied heavily against the decision and accuses Interpol of bowing to U.S. pressure.

The Argentine investigation of the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded over 200 got off to a rocky start and has been dogged by allegations of corruption and incompetence – leading Interpol to deny previous Argentine requests. However, the Interpol vote endorses the latest investigation as “highly professional” and thorough. (A summary translated into English can be read here.)

The Argentine government and deserves full credit for taking Iran to the mat on this issue. This was done despite the ongoing fear in Argentina that Iran will strike them again. There was also substantial political pressure. Outgoing President Nestor Kirchner was close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who bailed Argentina out when it reneged on its international debt. Chavez has a burgeoning relationship with Iran, but despite this multi-billion dollar favor, Kirchner supported the investigation and refused to attend events where Iran’s President Ahmedinejad was also in attendance.

The investigation shows both operationally and politically how Iran incorporates terrorism into its foreign policy. Operationally the attack was planned out of the Embassy in Buenos Aires and featured seamless cooperation between Iran and Hezbollah. The attack was carried out both to punish Israel and Argentina (for reneging on deals to provide Iran and Syria nuclear and missile technology.)

Perhaps most significantly are the two figures not included in the Interpol red letter, Rafsanjani and Khameini, the President and Supreme Leader of Iran when the attack was launched. They were not included because heads of state and government are exempt from Interpol warrants for actions carried out in office. However, these gentlemen are the “moderates” who will hopefully check Ahmedenijad’s eschatological ambitions.

As the recent arrests of Hezbollah operatives in LA shows, Iran’s reach remains truly global. The Interpol decisions should be a wake-up call to the entire world about this regime, before they put this network to use yet again.

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