Syrian dictator Assad secretly hosted Argentine and Iranian foreign ministers in AMIA bombing cover-up, ex-ambassador testifies.
By: Ben Cohen/The Algemeiner
News outlets in Argentina were abuzz on Wednesday with speculation that the country’s former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, may now face charges of treason for secretly negotiating a pact with Iran that exonerated the Tehran regime for the high-casualty 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
A sensational courtroom appearance by a former Argentine ambassador to Syria on Wednesday morning confirmed that Timerman had visited Syria in January 2011 to finalize the pact, at a meeting hosted by the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, that included Iran’s then-foreign minister, Ali Akhbar Salehi — who now heads the Islamic Republic’s Atomic Energy Organization.
For more than six years, Timerman, supported by Kirchner, has brazenly denied the reports that such an encounter involving the AMIA bombing was held.
Timerman’s journey to Damascus was first exposed by the Argentine journalist Pepe Eliaschev in March 2011 — at the time, Timerman effectively accused him of producing fake news, denouncing him as a “pseudo-journalist.” Nevertheless, details of Timerman’s meeting in Syria were included in the complaint against the Kirchner government compiled by Alberto Nisman — the Argentine special prosecutor who was closing in on Iran and Hezbollah’s culpability for the AMIA atrocity, in which 85 people were murdered and hundreds more wounded.
Witness Found Dead in his Apartment
Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18, 2015 — the night before he was scheduled to present his complaint to the Argentine Congress. In May 2017, a new official investigation into Nisman’s death proved conclusively that he was murdered.
Kirchner and Timerman’s denials of the Syria visit swiftly unraveled on Wednesday morning, as an ex-ambassador of Argentina to Syria testified during a Buenos Aires courtroom appearance that Timerman had indeed met secretly with Salehi.
Roberto Ahuad, the former envoy to Damascus, revealed before an official investigation into the Kirchner government’s collusion with Iran the critical details of Timerman’s visit, which culminated in a secret trip to Aleppo to finalize the pact.
Ahuad said that he had been on vacation in January 2011 when he was ordered to return to Damascus to prepare for Timerman’s arrival. Accompanied by his private staff and Ahuad, Timerman spent his first day in meetings with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem.
The next day, Timerman drove to a military airport near Damascus to board a plane placed at his disposal on the instructions of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Timerman and his assistants left Ahuad behind, however, merely informing the ambassador that they were flying to “another destination” in Syria.
Ahuad disclosed that he had taken Timerman’s dismissal of him as a slight, believing that the foreign minister had embarrassed him in front of the Syrians. Several hours later, having received no word from Timerman, Ahuad returned to the airport. There, Syrian officials told him that Timerman had flown to the northern city of Aleppo for a meeting hosted by Assad himself, with the Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi, Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem, and Iran’s ambassador to Damascus. The officials added that they were unaware of the reason for the meeting, and that all the arrangements had been cloaked in “absolute secrecy.”
Presence of Iranians Not Acknowledged
An official account of the meeting did appear the following day, which stated that Timerman had met with Assad to discuss the strengthening of bilateral ties, “reinforced by the large presence of the Syrian community in Argentina.” The presence of the Iranians was not acknowledged.
Eamonn MacDonagh — an expert on Argentine politics who has written extensively on the AMIA and Nisman cases — said that Ahuad’s testimony was an early “fruit” of the investigation into Timerman and Kirchner’s collusion with Iran that was announced in January.
“Ahuad was a political appointee to Damascus,” MacDonagh observed. “He is of Syrian-Lebanese origin and politically speaking a Peronista, so it’ll be hard for Kirchner and her defenders to portray him as a pawn of the ‘Zionists.’”
MacDonagh told The Algemeiner that Claudio Bonadio — the judge in charge of the AMIA coverup investigation — would now have to decide whether to indict Kirchner and Timerman. While Kirchner is widely expected to be elected to the Senate in Argentina’s October midterms — which would grant her immunity for at least six years — MacDonagh pointed out, “Timerman has no immunity and will never have any, so he’s much more exposed.”
MacDonagh added that ongoing attempts by Argentine President Mauricio Macri to clean up his country’s politically-compromised judicial system “bodes well for the future of all investigations into Kirchner and her pals, including those related to both Nisman’s death and his allegations.”
Toby Dershowitz of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank — which assisted Nisman with his investigation prior to his murder – said Ahuad’s testimony proved it was “time for others with knowledge of other parts of the conspiracy that sought to absolve senior Iranian officials from their role in the AMIA bombing to come clean.”
“Moreover, there are a range of bureaucrats, technicians, and officials alike who have visibility into who ordered, paid for and carried out the murder of prosecutor Nisman,” Dershowitz told The Algemeiner. “They should come forward too for the sake of justice – not just for Nisman and the victims of the AMIA bombing, but for Argentina itself, which has for too long been the victim of a damaged justice system.”