Argentina Turns away from the Democracies, and Back toward Iran

Nov. 20 2019

During the tenure of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as president, which ended in 2015, Argentina stymied efforts to investigate Hizballah’s 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center (AMIA), orchestrated by the Islamic Republic, which it refused to hold accountable. Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor assigned to the case, was murdered. But in 2015 Mauricio Macri won the presidency, pledged to continue the investigation, and moved his country away from Tehran. Macri, however, lost the recent election, and on December 10 the new president, Alberto Fernandez, will take office—with Cristina Kirchner as his vice-president. Ben Cohen comments:

[T]he two are neither married nor related, though Alberto Fernandez did serve as chief of staff to Cristina during her time as Argentine president from 2007 to 2015. The more pertinent factor to wrap one’s head around, perhaps, is the prospect that Cristina’s former policy of genuflecting to the Iranian regime and its associated terrorist groups will be revived. [There is therefore reason to suspect that the new president’s] goal will in part be to shield the vice-president from scrutiny concerning her alleged role in Nisman’s murder, which occurred just hours before [Nisman] was due to appear before the Argentine Congress to disclose a formal complaint against Kirchner for colluding with the Iranian regime.

One significant indication of [the incoming administration’s] direction emerged over the weekend, when Fernandez hosted a meeting in Buenos Aires of the Grupo de Puebla (“Group of the People”), a newly formed regional grouping that includes Mexico, Uruguay, and other left-oriented governments in Latin America, . . . deliberately intended to rival the center-right “Lima Group” of countries that includes Colombia, Guatemala, and, for the moment, Argentina.

The dramatic divide in the worldview of these two groupings has been on display in two current regional crises. . . . With regard to both [Venezuela and Bolivia], Fernandez took the side of authoritarian left-wing leaders against their democratic opponents. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Cristina Kirchner, and the late [Venezuelan leader] Hugo Chávez are among the Latin American leaders to have enabled and encouraged Iran’s exploitation of Latin America as an illicit-financing hub for its terrorist networks. A few weeks [before the beginning of his] presidential term, Alberto Fernandez is sending the signal that this is another leadership group he intends to join.

Read more at JNS

More about: Alberto Nisman, AMIA bombing, Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, Iran, Latin America

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia