ATFA Ad Exposes the Truth About Argentina’s Deal with Iran

Ad helps raise awareness of Argentina’s increasing defiance of international laws and norms

June 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) placed a full-page ad in The Washington Post exposing the inconsistencies and outright falsehoods that Argentina continues to spread in defense of a recent pact between Argentina and Iran.

The pact would reopen the question of Iranian culpability for a deadly 1994 terrorist attack in Buenos Aires – even though independent Argentine prosecutors have already determined that Iran was responsible. A growing chorus of voices, including members of Congress from both parties and representatives of the victims of the attack, has characterized the deal as both a miscarriage of justice and a dangerous form of aid and assistance to one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terror.

ATFA, an alliance of organizations united for a just and fair reconciliation of Argentina’s unpaid debts, has joined this chorus as part of its broader campaign to raise awareness of Argentina’s increasing defiance of international laws and norms. Regarding the growing and troubling cooperation between Argentina and Iran, ATFA Executive Director Robert Raben made the following statement:

ATFA believes there needs to be greater awareness of Argentina’s dramatic and increasing disassociation from the international community of law-abiding nations.  One of the most recent and alarming examples is Argentina’s growing alliance with Iran.

Argentina's detachment began with its self-imposed isolation from international capital markets a decade ago, which was a direct consequence of its refusal to conduct good-faith negotiations with creditors to resolve its outstanding debt obligations. Over the last few years, holders of U.S. court judgments against Argentina have repeatedly asked its leaders to sit down and negotiate a settlement. In each instance, Argentina has refused. Why is Argentina willing to negotiate with Iran, but not with its law-abiding creditors?

Argentina will likely persist in its defiance of creditors as long as the United States government continues to offer the country unnecessary legal support against creditors’ attempts to assert their contractual rights in U.S. courts. The best way to achieve a positive outcome for Argentina and its creditors is for U.S. policymakers to take a unified, zero-tolerance approach to Argentina’s increasingly rogue behavior.

Once Argentina settles its outstanding debts, we believe its re-integration into the international community – both economically and politically – can begin.

A Duplicitous Defense

Argentina’s ambassador has recently attempted to defend its pact with Iran by arguing that it would give Argentine prosecutors a chance to interrogate the senior Iranian officials that have been charged with the crime.

But as today’s ATFA ad makes clear, Iranian officials have emphatically declared that under no circumstances would the Iranian government permit any Iranian officials to be interrogated. Argentina’s central defense of its deal with Iran is simply false.

Further undermining Argentina’s defense is the fact that Iranian officials have praised the pact by claiming that it would reveal the bombing to be a “Zionist plot” designed to impede Iran’s influence in the United States’ backyard.

So what is the truth about Argentina’s deal with Iran? In fact, it has nothing to do with discovering the truth about the 1994 attack on the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded. That truth has already been established through an exhaustive investigation by Argentine prosecutors that left no doubt about Iran’s complicity.

Rather, the truth about the deal is that the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, like the government of Venezuela, has aggressively pursued an economic partnership with Iran – and re-writing the history of the AMIA attack is crucial to that partnership. According to The Economist: “Argentina’s interventionist policies have forced it to import ever-greater amounts of energy. And Iran is likely to offer generous terms to any country willing to thumb its nose at the West and buy Iranian oil.” (January 29, 2013)

The agreement to deny Iranian involvement in the attack on the AMIA is by most accounts one element in a persistent design over the last several years to increase economic cooperation between the two countries. As the U.S. government and others have focused on isolating Iran, Argentine exports to Iran have increased dramatically in recent years, rising from a few hundred million in 2007 to over $1.5 billion by 2010.

In March of 2011, Perfil reported that Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in January of that year to discuss dropping the AMIA investigation in exchange for deepening economic relations between Argentina and Iran. Perfil quoted a classified memo from Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as saying, “Argentina is no longer interested in solving these two attacks, but would rather improve its economic relations with Iran.”

And according a Washington Post report on the AMIA pact, “In 2011, [Timerman] told The Washington Post that he believed that a ‘hegemonic power’ — meaning the United States — had historically blocked efforts to unite Latin America and the Muslim world. He said Argentina was energetically seeking to build such ties.” (April 5, 2013)

A Growing Chorus of Concerned Voices

AFTA’s ad highlights the growing concern of U.S. policymakers. Members of the U.S. Congress from both parties have written letters expressing grave concern that this agreement will undermine U.S. policy toward Iran, because it presents a clear opportunity for Iran to secure a finding that exonerates its senior officials:

"We fear this downgrade to a 'Commission' will lead to a dismissal of charges and the whitewashing of this heinous crime"

Letter from Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Kirk, March 29, 2013

"We are concerned the real purpose of this 'Truth Commission' may be to exonerate Iran."

Letter from Members of Congress Matt Salmon and Ted Deutch, May 20, 2013

“The actions of Argentina and its President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will only encourage Iran's accelerating support for murderous dictators, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and sponsorship of global terrorism."

Letter from Members of Congress Grace Meng and Trey Radel, May 29, 2103

The deal has also been roundly condemned by groups representing the victims of the attack:

"To ignore everything that Argentine justice has done and to replace it with a commission that, in the best of cases, will issue, without any defined deadline, a 'recommendation' to the parties constitutes, without doubt, a reversal in the common objective of obtaining justice."

Joint statement by Delegation of Israelite Argentine Association (DAIA) and AMIA

"Iran is an unreliable interlocutor that finances and promotes terrorism."

Julian Schlosser, DAIA

“How will it be possible to close the case by collaborating with those who have denied any part in the bombing? Furthermore, how can Argentina trust a totalitarian regime with absolutely no respect for human rights?”

Sergio Widder, Latin America director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“[Like] asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of the Kristallnacht.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee

In light of the widespread outcry and concern that Argentina’s deal with Iran has generated – and the implications of that deal for ATFA’s mission – ATFA will continue to raise awareness of Argentina’s dalliance with Iran and its broader defiance of international laws and norms.

More Information

The American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) is an alliance of organizations united for a just and fair reconciliation of the Argentine government’s 2001 debt default and subsequent restructuring. Our members work with lawmakers, the media, and other interested parties to encourage the United States government to vigorously pursue a negotiated settlement with the Argentine government in the interests of American stakeholders.

ATFA is led by Executive Director Robert Raben, a former Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, and co-chaired by The Honorable Robert J. Shapiro, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the Clinton Administration, and Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, Ambassador at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York from 1997 to 2001. For additional information on ATFA's activities, please visit www.atfa.org, or contact [email protected] or +1-888-662-2382.