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Cry for Argentina

Ten years have passed since Argentina’s main Jewish communal center was hit by a terrorist bomb on July 18, 1994, leaving 85 persons dead and 250 injured in what remains the worst antisemitic attack since World War II. Ten years of botched investigations, rumormongering, diplomatic stonewalling — yet the case is no closer to resolution. None of the main perpetrators has been brought to justice, no closure achieved for the families of the victims, no reassurance for the world’s seventh-largest Jewish community. Worst of all, no lessons learned.

What happened 10 years ago is no mystery. As this newspaper has reported extensively, the basic facts have been known for years to intelligence agencies in Argentina, Israel, Germany and elsewhere. The professionals believe the bombing was carried out by the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, on orders from Iranian security. It was part of an escalating war of blow and counter-blow traded between Iran and Hezbollah and their widening circle of Israeli and Western enemies, going back to Lebanon in the mid-1980s. A turning point came in February 1992, when Israel assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbas Mussawi. A month later, a bomb leveled Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29. Iranian leaders reportedly met in August 1993 to plan a follow-up attack for the next year. The May 1994 kidnapping of Hezbollah leader Mustafa Dirani and a June raid on a Hezbollah training camp provided the pretext. Argentina reportedly was picked because it had a large Jewish community, a pool of potential collaborators in the local Muslim community, and a chaotic security and criminal justice system that was expected — correctly — to bungle any investigation.

In the years since, Iran has played its hand brilliantly. It has left the Argentine arena, focusing its attention on enemies closer to home. Its public face to Argentina, America and Europe has been a shrewd mix of amiability and threats. As the world has darkened in recent years, it has seized its chance, using Hezbollah to seize control of the Palestinian street while sending its own agents to curry influence in post-Saddam Iraq.

The West, for its part, has done everything possible to help. In the territories, Israel has crippled the secular Fatah movement that was the main rival of Hezbollah and its Islamic allies. In Iraq, our own government eliminated the secularist Ba’ath dictatorship that was the main counterweight to Iran, leaving the Islamic Republic standing unchallenged as the main power in the region.

As the 10th anniversary of the bombing approaches, the families continue to cry for justice. Argentina politely asks Iran to hand over the suspected perps. The Iranians, so far, have the last laugh.

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