Argentine-Iranian Relations and the Concerns of Argentine Jews

The New York Times has a good piece up on Argentinian-Iranian relations and the Jewish response in Argentina. The two countries have recently and slowly begun improving diplomatic ties through both informal and formal talks, as Argentina seeks to turn to new trade partners to try to improve its own slowing economy, while Iran seeks diplomatic ties in Latin America as an attempt to counter some of the broader international isolation it faces. However, Argentina’s Jewish population, which numbers over 250,000, is distressed by the growing ties for a very simple reason – there is evidence that Iran sponsored the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ Associación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded. Some Jewish peoples are outraged, seeing the prospects of prosecutions and convictions for those tied to the bombing fading away in improved ties. Others, however, are more circumspect, and not without reason: Cristina Kirchner (and her late husband before her) have supported investigations into the bombing and the re-opening of cases after ex-president (and current senator) Carlos Menem’s incompetence in handling the case in the 1990s; thus, while she may be seeking new diplomatic and economic ties, it is not as though she has disregarded the case in the recent past. Additionally, while ties may be improving, currently, Argentina and Iran are currently just in the phase of initiating talks, a rare event in the 18 years since the bombing. And among the items to be discussed on the agenda in the talks? The 1994 bombing (and Iran’s role in it) itself. All of this makes the situation more nuanced than a simple question of Kirchner disregarding Argentina’s Jewish community while forging ties to a relative pariah in much of the international community. However, as the Times piece shows, the impact of anti-Semitic terrorism in Buenos Aires continues to play an important role in public memory and national political debate in Argentina more than 18 years after the attack.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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