Argentine President Cristina Kirchner will reportedly skip the 19th anniversary memorial of the AMIA bombing on Thursday, in what analysts see as the latest troubling sign of the Argentine government’s increasing coziness with Tehran.
The Iranian government is suspected of plotting the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and is considered the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history.
Kirchner will be out of the country meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during Thursday’s memorial ceremony, the Buenos Aires Herald reports. This would be the second year in a row that Kirchner did not attend the memorial.
"Kirchner skipping the AMIA commemoration is like President [Barack] Obama ignoring the 9/11 anniversary," said American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael Rubin. "That she's skipping it for the second time shows it's no accident or coincidence. Jews are traditionally the canary in the coal mine, and in this case, the warning signs about Argentina couldn't be clearer."
Argentine federal prosecutors say the 1994 bombing was plotted by Iran and carried out by its terror proxy Hezbollah. Multiple former and current Iranian officials were placed on the Interpol wanted list in connection to the bombing.
Argentina’s relations with Iran have warmed immensely under the Kirchner administration. The Argentine government signed a deal with Iran in January to create a "truth commission" that will investigate the AMIA bombing, which will be staffed by jurists chosen jointly by the two governments.
Sources say that Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who heads the AMIA investigation, rankled the Kirchner administration in May when he released a 500-page report detailing the Iranian terror network’s infiltration of South America.
The Iranian foreign ministry also objected to the report and said it would not take the allegations seriously because of Nisman’s "Zionist character," according to the Buenos Aires Herald.
The Argentine government barred earlier this month Nisman from attending and testifying at a U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on the Iranian threat in South America. A bipartisan House delegation called on Secretary of State John Kerry to reconsider aid to Argentina after the incident.
"It's disturbing, in and of itself, that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has decided, for the second year in a row, not to attend the AMIA Jewish community center’s memorial of the 1994 bombing," said Robert Zarate, policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative. "But what would be even more worrisome is if her decision not to attend—as well as her government's decision last week to prevent Alberto Nisman, general prosecutor in the AMIA bombing—are motivated by a desire to strengthen Argentine-Iranian relations."
In an English-language translation of a 2006 indictment filed by Nisman, two of the prosecution’s witnesses said Iran’s current president-elect Hassan Rowhani was on the special affairs committee in 1994 that approved the AMIA bombing, the Washington Free Beacon first reported in June.
Nisman quickly pushed back on the story, which had been picked up by the Argentine media, telling the Times of Israel, "There is no evidence, according to the AMIA case file, of the involvement of Hassan Rowhani in any terrorist attack."
Nisman did not elaborate on whether this contradicted testimony from his witnesses placing Rowhani on the committee at the time the attack was approved.
The Free Beacon requested an interview with Nisman last month and was told by his office to email the prosecutor a list of Spanish-translated questions. Nisman did not respond to the questions and did not respond to the Free Beacon’s attempts to follow up.