House Lawmakers Ask John Kerry to Reconsider Argentinian Aid

Bipartisan coalition criticizes Argentina for growing closer to Iran

Argentina, Iran
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad / AP
July 12, 2013

A bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers have petitioned Secretary of State John Kerry to reconsider the level of aid given to Argentina following revelations that the Latin American country has opened it doors to Iran.

"We are particularly troubled by Argentina’s growing ties with Iran, utter contempt for U.S. law, growing corruption within its government, and repeated failure to met its financial obligations," the lawmakers wrote on Thursday to Kerry, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

U.S. officials and regional experts warned earlier this week that under the leadership of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina has helped Iran bring its terrorist activities to the Western hemisphere.

The lawmakers—including House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas), Reps. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), Grace Meng (D., N.Y.), Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.), and Bill Posey (R., Fla.)—urged Kerry to immediately cut back U.S. support for Argentina.

"We are aware that the U.S. government has offered legal support to Argentina in the past," according to the letter, which was also sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. "However, in light of Argentina’s growing cooperation with Iran … we believe that the U.S. should reconsider its legal support to Argentina."

The matter has assumed "a new level of urgency" given Argentina’s increasing efforts to accommodate Iran, according to the letter.

U.S. officials and independent experts have cited Kirchner’s government for boosting trade with Iran by more than a billion dollars, as well as for allowing Iranian agents to move freely through the region, where they are suspected of smuggling weapons, money, and other goods.

"Any country that seeks to develop deeper ties with the world’s leading sponsor or terrorism needs to hear a very strong response from the U.S.," the lawmakers wrote to Kerry. "We respectfully urge you to raise these issues in your discussions with Argentina and in your considerations of legal assistance to Argentina."

The Kerry letter is another sign that Congress is concerned with Argentina's rogue activities.

Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.)  recently filed a resolution that would boot Argentina from the G-20 global summit as a result of its bad behavior.

House lawmakers on Wednesday petitioned the Department of Justice to stop helping Argentina deal with a lawsuit resulting from its failure to repay $81 billion in sovereign debt.

Argentinian General Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was prohibited by his government from testifying on Tuesday before Congress about the 1994 AMIA bombing, an Iranian-orchestrated terror plot known as one of the deadliest attacks in Argentina’s history.

The lawmakers cited this as proof that Kirchner’s regime is more interested in preserving its ties with Iran than exposing the truth about Tehran’s terrorist activities in Latin America.

"We were deeply troubled to learn shortly before the hearing that Argentina denied Nisman permission to testify before the U.S. Congress on the grounds that the hearing ‘has no relation to the official mission of the General Attorney’s Office,’" the lawmakers wrote.

"While we respect the sovereignty of Argentina, we believe this decision is disturbing and grossly inaccurate," the letter states.

Kirchner recently announced that her government would partner with Iran to establish a so-called "Truth Commission" meant to find the truth about the AMIA bombing.

Most experts have described the commission a sham body that aims to falsely absolve Iran.

"Argentina’s decision to disallow Nisman from sharing his findings with the U.S. Congress is self destructive and indicative of deeper systemic problems within Argentina," the lawmakers wrote. "President Fernandez de Kirchner’s agreements with Iran to establish the co-called ‘Truth Commission’ calls into question Argentina’s very credibility and legitimacy as a responsible member of the international community."

Kirchner is helping Iran "rewrite history" and worse, the lawmakers said.

"We find it extremely troubling that Argentina would be aiding and abetting any process designed to allow Iranian senior officials to rewrite history and disavow the finding from extensive judicial investigations and the indictment of Iranian senior officials for their role in the 1994 AMIA bombings," the letter said.

The "Truth Commission" is not Argentina’s only joint project with Iran.

Trade between the two countries rose to $1.2 billion in 2011, making Argentina Iran’s second-largest trading partner.

This type of access has enabled Iran to build a complex "pipeline to move illicit products all across the region," Joseph M. Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, said earlier this week.

Argentina also "may be seeking to aid Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program through growing military ties with Venezuela and through the possible sharing of nuclear technology," according to the lawmakers. "We understand that Argentina has recently filed a petition for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court in a case stemming from that dispute, even though its leaders have vowed never to obey an U.S. court no matter what the ultimate outcome of its case."

Iran has additionally opened up mining operations in several Latin American countries. Its goal is to find uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, and other minerals that can help the regime build ballistic missiles.