from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Argentina and Iran: The Strange Death of Alberto Nisman

January 19, 2015

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Today in Buenos Aires, Alberto Nisman was found dead.

Who was he and why does it matter?

Nisman was the official charged with investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. It has long seemed that Iran and Hezbollah were the responsible parties, and that senior Argentine officials were covering this up and preventing justice from being done. Nisman was a fearless, honest official who probed for the truth.

Nisman "was expected to take part in a closed-door hearing in Congress on Monday to reveal the details of explosive allegations that involved President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, the Buenos Aires Herald reported. "Nisman had accused Fernández de Kirchner of ordering impunity for the Iranian suspects in the 1994 AMIA attack in order to boost trade with Tehran. According to Nisman, Argentina wanted to import oil and export grains to Iran." Or as the Israeli news site Ynet put it, "Alberto Nisman had accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of having opened a secret back channel to a group of Iranians suspected of planting the bomb, with a view to clearing them so Argentina might trade grains for much-need oil from Iran."

Mercopress reported this last week:

In a radio interview on Thursday, a day after filing the case, Nisman ratified his accusations against president Cristina Fernández. “From all the phone tapping records, which were verified, we proved that two months after the death of (former president) Néstor Kirchner (…) Argentina made a 180-degree turn in its foreign policy.”

The prosecutor went on: “(The Executive) decided to approach Iran geopolitically (…) they wanted to establish full diplomatic relations, and more importantly, a commercial trade due to the energy crisis that Argentina faced.” Nisman has accused the government of improving its relation with Tehran in order to obtain oil and to boost grain exports at the expense of covering up Iranian officials’ involvement in the bombing....

“The president decided to give impunity to Iran, to exculpate (the suspects) in the probe, so they would no longer be under investigation. All the decisions were taken by her. All the talks (recorded in phone taps) relate to her (…) She was aware of everything and (Foreign Minister Hector Timerman) did not move without the president’s consent,” he said.

Nisman said that the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 between Argentina and Iran “was presented as something to help unblock the negotiations and ended up being a criminal deal of impunity which was reached once everything else was already agreed beforehand.” He added that the agreement was “a way to introduce a false lead” in the probe.

He said that before the Memorandum was approved, “Argentina’s intelligence agents told the Iranians ‘relax, good news, we have already won’."

According to the press, Nisman’s death looks like suicide. How convenient: suicide, just days after he made his allegations--and the night before he was to testify about them!

How will we ever know? In today’s Argentina, where challenging corruption can be dangerous and apparently even fatal, who will conduct an honest investigation of Nisman’s death? Who will carry on the effort to disclose just what happened in 1994, and what was Iran’s role? Sadly, today the Organization of American States stands for nothing, hollowed out under its current leadership--very unlikely to make any serious demands. And U.S. influence is low in Latin America. While Israel called upon Argentina to continue Nisman’s work, it’s hard to believe anything can or will be done as long as Kirchner and Timerman are in power in Buenos Aires.

 

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