As an aficionado of mystery novels, I find last month’s shooting death of Alberto Nisman to be a surreal reminder that real life is truly stranger than fiction. It was the classic whodunit with a curious twist – the detective was the one who was murdered.
The tragic death of Nisman, the Argentinian prosecutor who spent ten years investigating the bombing of the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1994, occurred hours before he was to reveal his findings at an Argentine congressional hearing.
Working under death threats since he accused Iran and Hizbullah in 2006 of the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds, Nisman charged Argentine president Cristina Kirchner of a plot to shield Iranian suspects and had drafted a request for her arrest. We can only hope Nisman’s conclusive findings of Iranian guilt and Argentinian complicity did not die with him.
And while Nisman’s death prevented him from exposing Kirchner’s cover-up plot, the revelation of his intent to do so was enough to erode Argentinians’ trust and security in their government. Not an easy feat in a country that welcomed as many as 5,000 Nazis after World War II, including Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, and Treblinka death camp commander Franz Stangl.
With a history of such warm hospitality, it’s no wonder Argentina nurtures a relationship with the Iran, the epicenter of Islamic terrorism. In a 2013 move that reflected the height of irony, Argentina and Iran reached an agreement to create an independent commission to investigate the AMIA bombing. Appointing the fox to guard the henhouse may be an act of stupidity – but aiding and abetting the enemy is a crime.
In his September speech to the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to that fox when he compared Iran to the Nazis. “Militant Islam’s ambition to dominate the world seems mad,” Netanyahu said, “but so too did the global ambitions of another fanatic ideology that swept to power eight decades ago. The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith.”
Indeed, as recently as November, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei used 21st century technology to spread a 7th century Islamic message in a tweet that stated Israel “has no cure but to be annihilated.”
Which leads us to the brouhaha over House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu, the lone little lighthouse of warning in a sea of appeasers, to address Congress next month. In an effort to exploit the narrative of the Iranian threat for his own purposes, President Obama has conveniently shifted the message to the messenger, with “kill the messenger” taking on new and dire meaning. It seems more expedient to castigate Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer for an alleged diplomatic fiasco than to confront Iranian President Rouhani head on.
Obama, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, quoted the warning of the late chemist and writer Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor: “It happened, therefore it can happen again.” But his intent to veto any new sanctions bill against Iran belies the gravity of his words. So does his intimidation of his critics. Within a week of criticizing Obama’s statements on Iran as “talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the prime mover behind the Menendez-Kirk Iran Sanctions bill, did an about face and signed a letter vowing to withhold support for sanctions legislation until March 24 if Republicans brought it to a floor vote.
Without sufficient outrage from America’s lawmakers, Iran will become a national security threat to the U.S. in much the same way it is to Israel. For many long years we have been ignoring the dangers of a nuclear Iran and suddenly it is upon us. Comparisons to the 1930s no longer seem specious or paranoid. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) got it right when he insisted that reducing sanctions against Iran would backfire. “Loosening up on sanctions is foolish, dangerous, and not dealing in reality,” he said. “The Iranian government cannot be dealt with like normal countries…. Now’s not the time to retreat, appease and play the Chamberlain.”
Retreat at this juncture will only augment the peril and continue a policy of aiding and abetting a very dangerous enemy. Now is not the time to put partisan politics over national and international security. Netanyahu’s upcoming visit has pitted Democrat against Republican in a battle that has taken the sting out of the Iranian debate by camouflaging the elephant in the room as a mere diplomatic disaster rather than what it is fast becoming – a securitydisaster of epic proportions.
It is not surprising that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi objects to Netanyahu’s visit because “casting a political apple of discord into the relationship is not the best way forward.” What’s disheartening is that some American Jewish leaders have fallen for this political game of bait and switch that obfuscates the real risks that face us while setting up a false choice of “kavod” for an American president versus the safety of their countrymen in the U.S. and their brethren in Israel.
The ADL’s Abe Foxman, for example, inexplicably called for Boehner to rescind his invitation to Netanyahu and for Netanyahu to rescind his acceptance because “This looks like a political challenge to the White House and/or a campaign effort in Israel.”
Quite an ironic accusation considering no one can rationally accuse Netanyahu of politicizing the issue of Iran, which has long been the raison d’etre of just about every speech he has given before the UN and Congress. And the consequences are much more ominous than increased animosity between two world leaders.
Alberto Nisman’s investigative crusade to expose the violence of today’s jihadis in Iran proceeded in tandem with Netanyahu’s crusade to expose Iran’s ultimate threat. Netanyahu’s slow and painful political assassination at the hands of the Obama administration and its supporters emboldens the Iranian regime much the same way it was emboldened by Nisman’s physical assassination. If Netanyahu’s efforts regarding Iran are even somewhat successful, they may in some measure serve as a condolence for Nisman’s irreplaceable loss.