Monitoring and Verifying the JPA in a Duplicitous Environment

Monitoring and Verifying the JPA in a Duplicitous Environment

by

Howard Adelman

I have lost track of the number of times that I have been asked why I tied Argentina into the “discussions” between Israel and the U.S. and the negotiations between Iran and the U.S. over the nuclear issue. The parallelism in the roots of anti-Semitism in both Argentina and Iran seemed a stretch. The evidence for Iran bombing the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries in 1994 seemed a long time ago and, further, did not appear to have any connection with nuclear materials, even if the bombing constituted an argument for Iran’s determined, venomous and lethal manner of conducting foreign policy. Though the possibility that Iran was planning a similar attack last year in Montevideo, Uruguay certainly raised a red flag, it seemed to reflect on Iran’s overseas intelligence agency that would target civilians and not its nuclear policy. Two days ago, the diplomatic connection was made. Argentina formally asked the U.S. to include the issue of the 1994 bombing within the nuclear negotiations. I could say that I anticipated this connection, but I did not.

As I am prone to say, FAT CHANCE! Argentine courts may have accused a group of Iranians of planning the attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre that killed 85 people, and Iran’s intelligence service may even have had a hand in the murder of Alberto Nisman, but why would that instigate Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, to send a letter to John Kerry to make a request made previously. “I am asking you again that the AMIA issue be included in the negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The answer I think is simple, since Argentina does not really expect the Obama administration, given the importance this administration has placed on the negotiations with Iran, to actually push to have that item on the agenda when no provision was made for adding new agenda items under negotiation in the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreed to by Iran. President Cristina Férnandez and Héctor Timerman very badly need to divert the focus on them brought about because they have been accused of conspiring with Iran to whitewash the crime in order to clinch a grains-for-oil deal. This is not about electioneering since Férnandez is constitutionally barred from running in October for a third consecutive term. This is also not just about their historical legacy. Both do not want to be accused let alone tried for a criminal conspiracy.

But why make such an obviously fruitless effort? As Jen Psaki diplomatically replied on behalf of the U.S. State Department, she was unaware of any plans to raise the AMIA issue in the negotiations. Because Férnandez and Timerman believe that Mossad, and, perhaps, even the CIA, are behind the effort to shift the focus of anger for the unresolved AMIA bombing on them by delivering to Alberto Nisman allegedly incriminating evidence that there had been such a deal. I suspect, and I only suspect for I have absolutely no evidence for it, that Férnandez and Timerman both believe that Iran was behind Nisman’s killing. Finding Iran responsible is not the problem for them. But if that investigation leads back to connecting them to a deal with Iran to shift the investigation to the side because of an oil-for-grain deal, that would be a very serious problem subjecting both to being charged for criminal conspiracy to hide a crime, even if they were never proven guilty of that charge.

However, this blog is not intended to be a whodunit. It is more of an inquiry into what is really going on and a whydunit. Shifting now back to the substance of the negotiations is necessary, but I will try to tie all loose ends together, and well before the June deadline for doing this in the nuclear negotiations. Before I undertake the comparison, Machiavellian diplomacy requires that a person talk out of two sides of his/her face at one and the same time. My analysis in my last blog suggested that the pro-Iranian thrust of the preamble of JPA might have been deliberate in order to allow Iran to be boxed in tighter than otherwise might be the case by the substantive clauses. Those specific regulations are about performance rather than intentions, but unless viewed through the lenses of possible malevolent intent, then the only assessment will be of the performance relative to the term of agreement and not to the issue of the test itself which, in the end, is intended to examine intent and ensure behaviour conforms to that intent. But that latter issue must in turn be placed within a more general context.

The current Iran regime has been conducting a pro-Jewish (definitely not pro-Zionist) public relations campaign to offset the widespread image of the Iran power-brokers as uniformly anti-Semitic. Mair Javendafar, a Jew originally from Iran who teaches Contemporary Iranian Politics in Israel, documented that offensive in a recent article in Al-Monitor entitled, “Rouhani accommodates Iran’s Jewish students.”

President Hassan Rouhani as of 4 February made what had been an emerging practice official – Jewish students no longer are required to attend school on Shabat, a decree that resurrected a practice initiated right after the 1979 revolution but did not last. A year ago, Rouhani’s government donated $400,000 to the Jewish charity hospital. In December, he also unveiled a memorial to Jewish soldiers who died in the Iraq-Iran war. As well as attending such memorials, Ali Younesi, Rouhani’s special assistant, visits synagogues and other Jewish institutions. In the meanwhile, a second Holocaust denial cartoon exhibition is being organized in Tehran, so President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s heritage is still alive and well. After all, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called the Holocaust a hoax. All this is for a population that now numbers less than 9,000. In 1979, when Iran severed relations with Israel, the Jewish population there totaled 80,000, mostly in Tehran. So what is the relationship between these recent pro-Jewish initiatives, Iran’s virulent anti-Israeli stance and the nuclear negotiations?

A similar dual track process is visible in Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu. When Netanyahu addressed the UN in September, Obama had a private discussion with Netanyahu over their differences, but only after Obama went through a barrage of denials that he was snubbing Netanyahu and refusing to meet with him. The Israeli press reported that the White House had turned down a request for a meeting while the White House issued a statement that no request had been made. One brouhaha follows another, and each one ending in an affirmation from the White House that American ties with Israel are deep and abiding.

In one case, the head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, was reported as even opposing additional sanctions against Iran. However, in a 19 January meeting, Pardo absolutely denied that he had said any such thing. Quite the contrary. He insisted that the sanctions had been very effective and were the key instruments that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Further, Pardo agreed with a carrot and stick approach to negotiating with Iran rather than a confrontational posture based on absolute demands. Pardo’s criticism was about the absence of a sufficiently large stick in pressuring Iran. That stick, he insisted, should include stopping the talks and resuming under better parameters. He reinforced Kissinger’s critique that the parameters of the talks were flawed. What I wanted to emphasize here is the continuing disinformation war surrounding the negotiations. Thus, normally astute reporters, such as David Ignatius of the Washington Post, is used as a conduit to get out the message that the Obama White House had decided to cut out the Israelis from any briefing on the negotiations, and then, subsequently, the White House denies there was any truth to the story. This exercise in simulation diplomatic warfare is part of the fog of diplomatic war.

We know the following. Before negotiations even opened on the basis of the JPA in November 2013, Obama and Netanyahu were at loggerheads over the Iran negotiations. America’s goal was to extend the breakout period for construction of a nuclear weapon to at least one year, not, as many Republican critics contend, that this had been a change in policy from the original goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons altogether – a goal few viewed as achievable without bringing down the regime. Israel’s goal was to end the ability of Iran to produce nuclear weapons ever. Henry Kissinger in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee cited the UNSC resolution “to deny Iran the capability to develop a military option.” True, but hardly revealing since the issue was how best to operationalize that goal, by instituting inspections and oversights and extending Iran’s breakout period for a year or by insisting that Iran’s nuclear program in its entirely be dismantled, a goal which the JPA explicitly rejected as unrealizable. Does one opt for conflict prevention which would require a much higher level of confrontation, or conflict management at a much lower level of engagement?

In January, in a phone call between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama had asked Netanyahu to hold his diplomatic firepower while negotiators explored whether Iran would agree to a deal that limited centrifuges and stockpiles in order to extend the breakout period for Iran to at least a year. Netanyahu responded to the American negotiating position that a year wasn’t enough; he repeated Israel’s hardline insistence that Iran should not be allowed any centrifuges or enrichment. There had been two additional differences in the background. As already mentioned, Obama seemed willing to permit Iran to become a regional power and even recently endorsed such a proposition. That possibility made Israel (and Saudi Arabia) apoplectic. Israel wanted to reign in and, hopefully, eliminate Iran’s ability to send missiles to Israel; the JPA made no reference to missiles. In addition, Kissinger criticized the two developments as leading to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East so that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be pressured to begin a process of developing a capability for making nuclear weapons.

The implication that this week’s simulated exercise in diplomatic warfare arose because Netanyahu had released information about the American goal of a one-year breakout period, is nonsense. Anyone who did any reading on the matter knew this and has known this for at least a year. (See my previous two blogs on the progress of the negotiations.) One did not need Netanyahu to learn about this. The White House in January had not only asked, but urged Netanyahu to hold his diplomatic firepower when Israeli intelligence had concluded that a deal was now possible and even imminent. Netanyahu determined to scuttle the deal. While the negotiations had been continuing previously and success was not imminent – rather failure seemed in the offing – Netanyahu had held most of his fire. That phase was over. Netanyahu and his Republican allies in Congress were explicitly out to kibosh the agreement before it was too late. The issue was not over the specifics – whether Iran would be allowed to retain 6,500 or 7,000 centrifuges, but over the deal itself.

To repeat. The issue is that the deal now seems not only possible but imminent. For allowing Iran to retain its centrifuges that would allow it in a year to upgrade its uranium to weapons grade, had all along been unacceptable to Netanyahu, let alone the absence of any limits on Iranian missile development. Piled on these old schisms is now a new one. The White House now seems determined to lift sanctions without Congressional approval if it gets the deal it wants rather than face certain defeat by presenting the deal negotiated to the Senate for ratification.

The issue is even larger. The Iranian religious regime is opposed to liberalism and Western values, but has fully embraced its technology, except when the electronic revolution threatens its system of corruption and authoritarianism, its repression of rights and freedoms. Any deal agreed to now will strengthen Iran’s preservation of its Manichean world view which has focused on Zionism as the fundamental source of all evil, the Small Satan for which America, the Great Satan, is its major tool. This stance, if it is the governing one, will, in the end, sabotage the Iranian government’s current genuine efforts in engagement with the outside world even if the intentions of the current Iranian government are really just to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. As the critics of the negotiations chime, if you believe that, then you believe pigs can fly.

There is one final contextual issue – the timing of sanctions. Iran is currently in a terrible position economically and very sensitive to external pressure given both the low price of oil and the internal weaknesses of a kleptocratic economy of rent seekers where many of the large firms are in the hands of Iranian extremists who use those businesses both to fund their political agendas as well as for personal gain. Just this week, Iran’s Central Task Force to Combat the Smuggling of Commodities and Currency pointed to corruption as a key factor behind Iran’s high inflation and high unemployment rate. Smuggling is used not only to get around sanctions, not only to feed personal greed, but to feed a dissident apolitical underground interested in cigarettes, cell phones, cosmetics, music, dance, films, alcohol and drugs. So there is a weird interdependency between the religious puritans and the secular cultural dissidents in the dependency of both on smuggling totaling over $25 billion.

How has Iran behaved since the JPA was agreed to in November 2013? For the process of negotiations, the practices of providing transparency and rules for ensuring that transparency must be assessed in order to weigh one way or another for anyone who sees a rationale in both perspectives to decide which of the alternative strategies to follow.

The JPA provided that Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures:

  • From the existing uranium enriched to 20%, Iran could retain half as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the TRR while the remaining 20% UF6 had to be diluted to no more than 5%
  • There had to be no reconversion line
  • Iran must confirm that it will not enrich uranium over 5% during the six months
  • Iran must not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant1, Fordow2, or the Arak reactor3, designated by the IAEA as IR-40
  • When the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has to convert that to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period
  • No new locations for enrichment are to be developed
  • Iran will continue safeguarded R&D practices, including enrichment R&D practices, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA
  • No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing
  • There will be enhanced monitoring.

In addition to the above undertakings, provision was made for specified information to be provided to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of November 2013.

Iran was also required to submit an updated and completed Design Information Questionnaire for the purposes of conducting a building inspection (a DIQ) for the reactor at Arak (IR-40) to the IAEA. Iran had to agree to conform to an IAEA Safeguards Standards for IR-40. When inspectors are not present at a facility, Iran had to allow daily IAEA inspector access for DIQ verification, Interim Inventory Verification (IIV), Physical Inventory Verification (PIV), and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records at Fordow and Natanz. IAEA has to have access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and uranium mines and mills.

Five other measures for assessing Iran’s intentions and performance were put in place:

1 During the 6 months, for centrifuges that have been installed but not currently enriching uranium, Iran will not feed UF6 into them.

  1. Any replacements of centrifuges will be of the same type.
  2. At Fordow:
  • there will be no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium
  • enrichment capacity will not be increased
  • Iran will not feed UF6 into the other 12 non-operative state cascades
  • There will be no further interconnections made between cascades
  • Any replacements of existing centrifuges will be of centrifuges of the same type.
    1. At Arak, for 6 months, Iran will not:
  • commission the reactor
  • transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site
  • will not test additional fuel
  • will not produce more fuel for the reactor
  • will not install remaining components.
    1. Iran’s centrifuge production during the 6 months will be dedicated to replacing damaged machines.

Without yet assessing whether Iran complied with any or all of these provisions, it is clear that these are about halting a process underway of producing military-grade nuclear fuel whatever the protestations of Iran about its commitment to exclusive peaceful use of nuclear energy. Further, it is also clear that that these were interim steps to assess sincerity by Iran and to provide a foundation for further transparency and monitoring Iranian compliance. Finally, it is also clear that the negotiations are not about eliminating Iran’s nuclear program altogether.

How did Iran perform in the first six months? What quid pro quo in lifting sanctions did the West undertake and put into effect?

Tomorrow: The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA

The Argentinian Nazi Swamp

The Argentinian Nazi Swamp

Part II: The Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran-Washington Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

Unlike my knowledge of Africa, I know very little about Latin America except what I have learned from my oldest son’s books and articles. Jeremy Adelman is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University where he once chaired the History Department and directed the Centre for Latin American Studies. He is an authority on Argentina. So what I know is mostly stolen from him. The mistakes are all mine.

As many of you know, this year I have been living in Mexico for the winter. Most readers are familiar with the scandal of the disappearance of 43 students here. On 26 September 2014, a group of Ayotzinapa rural teachers college students in the state of Guerrero, in the southwest of Mexico, were traveling to participate in a protest in nearby Iguala. Along the way, they were ambushed, evidently by the police. Three died and several were injured. A few escaped to tell the tale, but 43 disappeared. What happened to them?

What you probably do not know is that the parents of the missing students hired an experienced Argentinian investigative team that had honed its skills originally in the hunt begun in 1984 for Argentina’s 9,000 “disappeared” under the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Mexico’s government claimed that the youth were handed over by the police to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel who killed them, burned their bodies in Cocula in southern Guerrero, threw the remains onto a garbage dump where they were burned and then flushed the ashes into a river to hide the evidence. Using forensic evidence on the ashes, the investigative team could only identify one student.

Further, the Argentine Forensic Anthropologists team said that there was absolutely no scientific evidence to support the Cocula garbage dump thesis. The narrative concocted by the office of attorney general Jesȕs Murillo Karam, supposedly based on 39 confessions, 386 declarations, 487 forensic tests, 16 raids and two reconstructive investigations, was suddenly highly suspect, especially when tests showed a dump fire could never turn a human body to ashes since the temperature would never be hot enough. The tooth found was from a denture and none of the students wore dentures. Most significantly, the attorney messed up the process of collecting 20 genetic profiles from family members, making then totally useless. Yet the mayor of the town of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, have been in prison since November, along with 90 police accused of the crime.

Critics have insisted that the federal authorities and police were complicit in the crime all along. Key witnesses had been tortured according to Anabel Hernández, the lead investigative reporter for Proceso, and Steve Fisher of the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California Berkeley.

What has this to do with the 18 January mysterious death of the Argentinian federal prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, hours before he was due to testify on his investigations of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre, Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires which left 85 people dead and 300 more injured? The large number of civilian dead, the alleged attempt to cover up the crime by federal officials, finding evidence in the trash (in the Argentine case, the discovery of a draft arrest warrant for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Nisman’s garbage), the whodunit common theme, the involvement of security forces, the mixture of incompetence and corruption, and the ultimate irony of Argentinians, who cannot get to the bottom of their most puzzling case in history, helping unravel Mexico’s scandal.

The Argentinian case is more interesting because it involved, probably until very recently when it was dissolved by the President, the Argentinian intelligence service. A former investigator into the case, Claudio Lifschitz, claimed he was abducted and tortured by SI agents. The Argentinian case also involved a foreign government, Iran, allegedly in cahoots with the government in Buenos Aries. After the AMIA bomb went off, corrupt police officers were arrested, but extraditions were deliberately bungled. An Iranian spy, Abolghase Mesbahi, had reported that Tehran had deposited $10 million into the Swiss bank account of Prime Minster Menem to thwart an investigation. Juan José Galeano, overseeing the case, was impeached 10 years later. In 2006, Nisman accused Tehran of abetting the Lebanese militants, Hezbollah, in the bombing.

But I want to go back to a much earlier period in Argentina well before the Iran-Argentina AMIA bombing link link via earlier Nazi connections and the swastika. The Iran link will be developed in a separate blog.

Before and during WWII, Argentina had close links with the three axis powers, Germany, Spain and Italy, the three major sources of European immigrants to Argentina. A solid phalanx of Germans lived in Argentina and preserved their language and culture. In the thirties and during WWII, Nazi agents were very active in Argentina and both Jewish and Polish immigrants in Argentina bore an understandable animus towards their “German” fellow citizens.

Juan Perón went even further when he took power in 1946. He had been a fascist admirer if not an outright fascist and had served as a military attaché to Benito Mussolini in the late thirties. He not only tolerated the Nazi presence in Argentina, but, through his agents, recruited Nazis as immigrants to Argentina, including wanted war criminals like Adolf Eichmann (Ricardo Klement in Argentina). Other Nazis fleeing prosecution included: the infamous Josef Mengele (Helmut Gregor in Argentina), the “Angel of Death” notorious for his “scientific” racial experiments and whose notoriety was publicized in the film, The Boys of Brazil; the Prussian aristocrat, Ludolf-Hermann Emmanuel Georg Kurt Werner von Alvensleben (Carlos Lücke in Argentina), nicknamed “Bubi” (Little Boy), the SSGruppenführer and Major General of the Police responsible for the Intelligenzaktion in Pomerania in the “Fordon Valley of Death” and mass murders in Piaśnica; Eduard Roschmann (Frederico Wegner in Argentina), the commander of the Riga concentration camp (the Butcher of Riga) known best through his portrayal in Frederick Forsyth’s novel, The Odessa File, and the movie adapted from it.

Aribert Ferdinand Heim (Tarek Hussein Farid in Cairo), a member of Hitler’s Waffen SS, the Doctor Death at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps, was also rumoured to be hiding in Argentina, but had actually relocated to Cairo, whereas Adolf Eichmann, who was for years rumoured to be hiding in the Middle East, had actually relocated to Argentina.

Most of these Nazis were assisted in their escape from war prisoners’ camps after the war, provided with temporary false German identification papers until they were spirited out of Germany on passes supplied by the International Red Cross with the assistance of Alois Hudal, a titular bishop of the Catholic Church in the Vatican who had published a book, The Foundations of National Socialism (1937). Hudal was a critical nexus in the so-called ratline used to relocate Nazis fleeing arrest warrants to Argentina. In Argentina, the so-called Odessa network helped them find jobs or become managers and owners of businesses, often in Perón-sponsored cover firms for Third Reich technocrats. Though he had none of the requisite engineering skills, Adolf Eichmann was soon working for Compañia Argentina para Proyectos y Realizaciones Industriales, a company incorporated to provide electricity in the City of Tȕcamán.

Argentina was not only a haven for Nazis, but the largest centre for Nazis in the Americas. They dreamt of resurrecting National Socialism. It would take far more than this short blog to indicate the extent that Argentina had been a haven for Nazis. Note, I do not call them ex-Nazis because to a man they retained their allegiance to National Socialism throughout their lives. But the following additional select list can give you a sense not only of the Nazi presence in Argentina, but of the Nazi war criminals who found a relatively safe haven in Argentina. Most died natural deaths in Argentina, but some fled to Paraguay and Brazil when things became hot in Buenos Aries. Others returned to Europe. A few were caught and tried like Adolf Eichmann in Israel and Josef Franz Leo Schwamberger in Germany. Most were protected by the Argentinian government which refused requests for extradition.

  • Hans Fischböck, finance minister of occupied Holland, responsible for the expropriation of Jewish property and sending Jewish labour to work in the arms industry
  • Hans Hefelmann responsible for the Führer’s office for euthanasia and aiding in the murder of 75.000 people
  • Fritz Lantschner, Gauamtsleiter. Government Director of the Reichsstatthalterei Tyrol-Vorarlberg; arrived in Argentina in 1948, subsequently becoming an Argentinian citizen; managed a building company in San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro
  • Erwin Fleiss, former SS Sturmbannfȕhrer leader of the SS in the Gauleitung Tyrol and active in the pogroms in Innsbruck; arrived in Argentina ten years later and lived in Río Negro where he died in 1964
  • Franz Rubatscher, police officer for the illegal NSDAP, arrived in Argentina in 1947 but was subsequently allowed to resettle back in Europe
  • Fridolin Guth, SS-Hauptsturmfȕhrer, accused of taking part in the murder of French Partisans; arrived in Argentina in 1948
  • Josef (Francisco) Vötterl, SS-Hauptsturmführer; arrived in 1948 and lived in Buenos Aires
  • Josef Janko (José Petri), SS-Obersturmfȕhrer, arrived in Buenos Aires in 1951 and in 1955 obtained an Argentinian residency permit
  • Josef Franz Leo Schwammberger, SS-Oberscharfȕhrer and commander of the forced labour camp in Rozwadów and then in the Przemyśl Ghetto, which was officially declared a work camp; arrived in Buenos Aires in 1949 and became an Argentinian citizen under his own name until an arrest warrant was issued by Argentinian authorities after which he arrested in 1987 and extradited to Germany where he was sentenced to life imprisonment
  • Erich Rajakowitsch, member of the SS responsible for the deportation of Jews in the Netherlands; moved to Buenos Aires in 1947 but returned to Graz in 1952 where he lived for the rest of his life
  • Gerhard Böhne, a lawyer with a doctor of laws, a Nazi war criminal guilty of the extermination of 62,000 people in psychiatric hospitals deemed too “defective” for a pure society and one of the very few Nazis who settled in Argentina in 1949 who was extradited back to Germany in 1966 to stand trial, a pyrrhic success since he was found to be unfit to be tried
  • Johann von Leers, a legal scholar on racial-based legislation, who fled to Argentina in 1950 and five years later followed Aribert Ferdinand Heim (Tarek Hussein Farid) to Cairo to be reborn as Amin Omar van Leers
  • Josef Vötterl, a member of the German Einsatzgruppen who arrived in 1949, returned to Germany in 1955 only to return once again to Argentina three years later to a good position
  • Kurt Christmann, a twin of Josef Vötterl with a similar criminal record, head of the Gestapo in Klapenfurt and Salzburg, and in Russia served as head of the Einsatzgruppen in the town of Kransnoda, spent 5-7 years in Argentina before returning to Germany where he was tried and sentenced to ten years in prison.

There were many more. Most of these Nazis landed on their feet, most with new identities, jobs and financial security. They could, like Adolf Eichmann, even risk reuniting with their families. They also enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow Nazis, even publishing Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda in the newspaper, Der Weg. Further, they had the additional support of Argentinian homegrown Nazis like Eberhard Ludwig Fritsch head of the Dȕrer publishing house in Buenos Aries, and the fawning services of a skilled “journalist,” Wilhelmus (Willem) Sassen. Adolf Eichmann may have been a very big fish in the Dȕrer swamp, but he still suffered mostly from the enforced anonymity in the world at large where he dreamed of recognition for what he believed were his great accomplishments in the extermination of the Jews.

In 1948, when Dr. Otto Günth, went to Buenos Aires as the first post-war Austrian consul, the sole focus was economic, not the repatriation of alleged war criminals. The Austrian Amnesties of 1955 and 1957 further reduced even tiny efforts to render justice for these escaped murderers. Austria was not the exception but the rule. Countries were keen on burying the past, not resurrecting tales of Nazi crimes. Argentina was just the worst in actively protecting and aiding Nazis. That is why it is so difficult to swallow the complete myth, a myth even believed in by most Jews, that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. In my research in UN archives, I could not find one reference to the Holocaust as a motive for supporting the partition resolution in 1947. What to do with the 200,000 Jewish refugees in Europe was a problem since no country then wanted them. As Bettina Stangneth wrote in her book on Eichmann, “Today it’s difficult to imagine what people in the early 1950s wanted to know about the National Socialist crimes – namely almost nothing.”

1955 was a turning point for two reasons. Juan Perón was deposed. The most active protector of the Nazis in Germany was gone. Further, scholarly books began to appear on the Holocaust. The Jews were not the only ones to suffer from this bracketing of history. So did Adolf Eichmann. In 1955, the French documentary Night and Fog was being shown around the world. Scholarly book after scholarly book was published documenting the atrocities of the Nazi regime with Eichmann’s name repeatedly mentioned as the orchestra conductor of the extermination. This should have made Adolf Eichmann alert to the dangers of his position, as it did Mengele who fled to Brazil. But Eichmann grew even more careless and, as the world knows, Israel’s Mossad finally tracked him down, abducted him and he stood trial in Jerusalem. There he was able to convince even as astute an intellectual as Hannah Arendt that he had only been a cog in a bureaucratic machine, an expression of the banality of evil, rather than a committed and innovative exterminator. However, convincing Arendt was a pyrrhic victory for that was precisely how he did not want to go down in history. He eventually received a posthumous victory of sorts in spite of his skillful acting in the courtroom in Jerusalem in the effort to avoid the death penalty.

However, the Eichmann trial had succeeded in making the Holocaust part of our world historical memory instead of just a subject of study for a small coterie of committed scholars. Eventually, it would lead to the resurrection of Adolf Eichmann as the operational head of a mass extermination machine and not a no-name bureaucrat.

If we transition through the years of Argentinian military dictatorship and the “Dirty War” from 1976-1983, a highly disproportionate number of Jews were among the estimated 9,000 (Nunca Más) disappeared; the Mothers and Grandmothers of the disappeared claim a figure of 30,000. Richard H. Curtiss in his book, In Memoriam: Jacobo Timerman, 1923- 1999, offered a figure of 15,000. In either case, there were many more than the 43 Mexican students who disappeared this past September. Jacobo Timerman, the famous Argentinian-Jewish journalist and publisher, founder of Primera Piana in 1962 and another news weekly, Confirmado, in 1965, both repressed by the military dictatorship that took power in 1966, founded La Opinión in 1971, the Le Monde of Latin America. On 27 July 1972, he was one of the targets of the 20 bombings in Buenos Aries on the twentieth anniversary of Eva Perón death.

In 1973, Juan Perón returned to Argentina when his front, Héctor Cámpora, was elected President but stepped aside upon Perón’s return. Juan was succeeded by his wife, Isabel Perón, when he died the following year. It might appear that after a hiatus of twenty years, the anti-Semitic fascists were back in full power. But, by and large, they had really never left power except for a few years of democracy, and, even then, they had only gone underground. Only the Peronist populist version versus the Catholic religious or the military faction resumed power. The military, just as they had in 1955, returned once again with a coup in 1976 and General Jorge Rafael Videla initiated military rule – el Proceso. .

Anti-Semitism continued to increase throughout the 1970s especially targeting Jews in the media. In 1977, Plan Andinia was published accusing the Jewish international conspiracy of trying to control Argentina. Bombs targeting Jews were going off at the rate of ten per month. An enormous bomb went off when Victory at Entebbe was screened in Córdoba causing enormous damage and many deaths. Timerman was soon arrested, but in 1979 was exiled to Israel where he wrote his 1981 famous book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, about the years of Argentinian misrule, his torture and the anti-Semitism permeating Argentina. When he was being escorted out of Argentina, he learned that, “fifteen minutes after departure from my house, a group of military men arrived intending to kidnap me.” He would have become one of the disappeared.

Jacobo Timerman’s son became a famous Argentinian human rights advocate, then a diplomat and is currently Foreign Minister of Argentina. How did he become involved in alleged negotiations with Iran and the purported cover-up of the investigation of the 1983 Jewish community centre bombing? Or was he also a target of leaks from the intelligence service with its long tradition of anti-Semitism? Two years before the destruction of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries, the Israeli Embassy in Argentina was partially destroyed by a car bomb on 17 March 1992. What is the connection between these two culminations of a half century of anti-Semitism in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 and Tehran?

Two intervening tales need to be told. One is the story of the Argentine intelligence service and the other of the Iranian connection. Until the late 1990s, and, to some degree, right up to the present, the despicable role of the intelligence service and of the government has not been sufficiently exposed. In 1998, when the Argentine foreign minister Guido di Tella was opening the Commission for the Clarification of Nazi Activities in Argentina, he described the collaboration between Argentina and Nazi Germany as a ‘painful and shameful’ episode in Argentina’s history.

Let me finish by quoting my son. The origins of the Argentinian intelligence service “date to the first Juan Perón government (1946–55), which enlisted Nazi war criminals to serve as Perón’s spies. During the military junta’s rule in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the services were deeply involved in repressing the opposition and colluding with neighboring dictatorships.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2015/02/alberto_nisman_s_mysterious_death_and_president_cristina_fern_ndez_de_kirchner.html) It was the intelligence service that provided the leaks of immanent arrest warrants for Nazis in Argentina in the 1950s as regular scoops, thereby giving the Nazis time to flee to Paraguay or Brazil. It was the intelligence service through Antonio Stiusso who, like Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal, was feeding the key information of wiretapped conversations between top aides of Fernández and senior Iranian officials, to Alberto Nisman about squelching the AMIA inquiry and food-for-oil bargaining. The intelligence service may also have been responsible for Nisman’s death. Finally, following his death and the zig-zag responses of the government, President Fernández dissolved the intelligence service.

Tomorrow: The Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

Part I: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

A brouhahah is building up steam as we approach Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled 3rd of March address to both houses of Congress in response to the 21 January invitation of U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader, John Boehner (with the concurrence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but NOT the Democrats in either the House or Senate, who were not informed about the invitation). Bibi is scheduled to address Capitol Hill in a joint session of Congress on the subject of Iran. Boehner did not coordinate the visit with the White House in an alleged breach of protocol. On the basis of separation of powers, Boehner denied any protocol breach. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, argued that proper protocol required Boehner to inform the White House, not Israel, and that is why he did not raise the issue with John Kerry in their two-hour meeting; that, he argued, would be truly “inappropriate.”

However, he said nothing about the accusation that he set in motion a precedent in inviting a foreign leader to interfere in American decision-making or in making Israel a partisan issue for the first time. As the debate over the invitation continues in Washington, the focus of the debate is really in Jerusalem over, in the first place, the impact of this dispute with Obama on the Israeli election, the impact of the dispute on Jerusalem-White House relations, the impact on relations with the American Jewish diaspora, which remains largely liberal but generally loyal, even if somewhat critical, of recent right-wing leaders in Israel, and, on a much deeper level, the extent to which Iran poses an existential threat for Israel, and, correspondingly, the way the Washington-Tehran nuclear negotiations will impact on Iran as a threat to Israel.

A parallel and seemingly unrelated imbroglio is taking place over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman on 18 January in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman was the prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead. At first reported as a suicide, that belief was undermined with the passing of each day. Iran is involved because Iran had not only been accused of orchestrating the bombing, but of seducing the current Argentinian government into a trade pact that entailed setting up a Truth Commission on the 1994 bombing, but doing so, not to uncover the truth, but to shunt it aside as well as the Interpol arrest warrants for those Iranians viewed as responsible for the attack. Iran is the lynch pin between the two controversies.

The impetus for the first controversy above is a deep division over President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Tehran and the negotiations over Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. Bibi is being invited to undercut Obama’s Iran initiative and, explicitly, criticize the President’s major strategic initiative. Trying to go over the head of the president to influence U.S. foreign policy is a no-no for many, even those who do not support Obama’s outreach to Iran. Would you not be furious if you worked in the White House and once again be willing to depict Bibi as “chickenshit”? The Republicans have been determined to introduce and pass new sanctions on Iran. In his State of the Union address in January, Obama promised to veto the proposed Congressional sanctions legislation. One day after Obama’s State of the Union address, Boehmer issued the invitation to Bibi. Among the anti-Iran pieces of legislation being forged in Congress is at least one that is intended to be veto-proof in instigating further promised sanctions if Washington cannot reach an agreement with Tehran before the end of June. So the Bibi-Obama dispute is merely a proxy for the conflict over the negotiations with Iran.

This is the first of a four-part series of blogs dealing with the Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran quadrangle. It will focus on the U.S.-Israeli axis and be centered in Jerusalem. I will discuss the Iran-Argentina axis centered in Buenos Aries next followed by the seemingly unrelated Argentinian-Israeli axis. I will end with the Tehran-Washington axis focused specifically on the nuclear negotiations that will be used to resolve the conundrums raised in the previous three analyses.

Iran ———2———–Argentina

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-4-                                   -3-

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U.S ———-1———–Israel

A central issue in Washington is how Bibi’s visit and how the Republican initiative will affect the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, though Obama offered as his reason for his unwillingness to meet with Netanyahu the proximity of the impending Israeli elections scheduled for 17 March. For Boehner, “There’s a message that the American people need to hear and I think he (Netanyahu) is the perfect person to deliver it…The threat of radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat. The threat of Iran to the region and the rest of the world is a real threat and I believe the American people are interested in hearing this.”

But that is not the primary issue for Israelis. In the opening to his blog yesterday morning, Rabbi Dow Marmur posed the question in a way that gave his position away. “Iran does indeed constitute a major threat to the existence of Israel. Both the pronouncements of many of its leaders and the actions of its stooges Hezbollah and Hamas point to it. It’s, therefore, not surprising that Prime Minister Netanyahu should want to alert the world to that danger and, at the same time, rightly stress that Israel is by no means the only country at risk from Iran. But a much greater threat than Iran is a rupture in the relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel.” (my italics)

If Iran is only a major threat, then the relationship between Jerusalem and the White House ranks higher than depicting that existential threat. Further, a deep breach with Washington is “the much greater threat” for it could lead to a rupture in U.S.-Israeli relations. Of course, liberals and Democrats see the acceptance of the invitation as prioritizing Netanyahu’s domestic political interests over Israel’s relationship with the United States. Most Democrats, even Nancy Pelosi, will not boycott the speech lest they undercut even in a small way their domestic supporters, but their resentment will remain palpable.

Dow omitted, probably because he rations his words in his blogs, the consequences on Jewish diaspora-Israeli relations, for, as the Israeli consul generals in the U.S. all warned the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, fierce negative reactions can be expected to the speech from U.S. Jewish communities and many Israeli allies, including even right-wing Republicans who may agree with Bibi’s take on Iran, but are upset about the intervention of a foreign political leader in American debates over policy.

Israel has been warned of this danger by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, by many American Jews, including 7 Jewish members of Congress, and by other Israelis. On the one hand, it is totally apparent that the Iran engagement by the White House is the central plank in Obama’s foreign policy during his second term. In the fading hope that Netanyahu will change his mind about visiting Washington, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, and the casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, are painted as the two evil masterminds “misleading” Netanyahu. (Dow’s words) This is only slightly different than Tom Friedman’s portrait of the four horseman of the apocalypse – Boehner, Bibi, Dermer and Adelson – as equally insensitive and mindblind, though not villainous. “Netanyahu; his ambassador; the pro-Israel lobby Aipac; Sheldon Adelson, the huge donor to Bibi and the G.O.P.; and Boehner all live in their own self-contained bubble.” Dow Marmur reduced Natenyahu’s status in service to his own hopes.

This portrait is consistent with American public opinion that 59% of voters expect little from the Republican-dominated Congress. Dow, by contrast, paints Netanyahu as a patsy in the hands of the partnership of an Israeli diplomat and an American tycoon. Netanyahu is not only a patsy, but a cynic willing to sell his country’s future relations with Washington down the drain just to win an election: “not losing the election may be more important to him than the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.” As Nancy Pelosi suggested, the exploitation of congress as a political tool for Israeli domestic politics is scandalous. This interpretation is consistent with Michael Oren’s, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and no bleeding-heart liberal. Thus, Dow can only fall back on his old bromide of “hope” to save the situation.

But what if Bibi’s effort is his last hurrah, his final effort to sabotage the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations that he deeply believes will endanger the future of Israel? It may be an exercise in courage – or, perhaps, rashness – in his willingness to face the stormy blowback from his decision to come and refusal to back off. Such an approach is consistent with an ambition to win the next election on 17 March because he also believes he is the only one with the talent, experience and commitment to ensure Israel’s survival in the face of its greatest danger. He needs desperately to outshine his rivals on the right. One does not have to agree with either Netanyahu’s self-appraisal or his depiction of the danger facing Israel to suggest his actions may not be that of a cynic. His position may be incorrect, but it does reverberate with many Israelis who share his fear of Tehran. Further, this self-portrayal, sincere I believe, may have the added value of distracting voters from his inadequacies as a Prime Minister.

I contend that the issue of Netanyahu’s visit is ultimately a distraction and side issue, hence the choice of the word “brouhaha” instead of “imbroglio.” It is a failure to analyze the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations correctly. For the Iranians and the White House are another duo married at the hip, with Iran determined not to provoke further sanctions from Washington while tamping down on any domestic opposition while Obama needs a deal, with Iran as his own (and only???) foreign policy legacy. If the Republicans torpedo the negotiations, then both Iran and Obama may fail, but both can blame Congress for that failure. And Netanyahu will rejoice in a victory that will be pyrrhic, since Israel will have to endure a very deep rupture with Washington. This is the gospel according to my rabbi and my dear friend.

In fact, the rupture is only really with the Obama administration. The schism has been very deep for a long time. The central issue, which Dow did not raise, is whether Bibi’s intention is to torpedo the deal (which is what I will suggest) or whether Bibi is merely trying to stiffen Obama’s spine so that the White House maintains a tough line in the negotiations. Dow’s analysis is incorrect because the diagnosis is inadequate. I will follow a circuitous route to establish that beginning with the characterization of Iran and its historic involvement in Argentina and the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the ayatollahs.

Let me make my position clear up front rather than forcing you to wait for the conclusion to know where I stand.

  1. Netanyahu may be a pragmatist, but he is not a cynic in this case; he sincerely believes that Iran is and will remain an existential threat to Israel; he sincerely believes that a negotiated nuclear deal is only of use to Iran as a mask for its strategic plans and intentions in the Middle East.
  2. Given that conviction, which runs contrary to the analyses of a great many current and retired major Israeli intelligence and military officers, any effort to disrupt the process, however much it may appear as irresponsible and disrespectful (Herzog’s depiction) of the American president, if not churlish, inappropriate, reckless and dangerous, is worth it no matter how much it ruffles the feathers of the White House.
  3. The relationship with the White House is a brouhaha rather than an imbroglio, a subtle but important distinction suggesting a temporary deepening of the rift between Netanyahu and Obama rather than a deep fissure between the American polity and Israel because of Israeli interference in American affairs; The issue, though certainly more serious, is more akin to disputes over Israeli-sponsored junkets for rabid gay-bashing evangelical Christians and democratic supporters of Israel. Though I agree that it would be preferable on a number of grounds that Netanyahu NOT go to Washington, I do not believe one whit in the thesis that Netanyahu’s initiative will seriously jeopardize U.S. long term support, goodwill and readiness to stand by Israel. As Nancy Pelosi herself said, all members of Congress place ties with Israel above any political differences of opinion, based on the two countries’ mutual respect for democratic values and the national security interests of the two. More specifically, the U.S. will continue in its efforts to stymie Palestinian initiatives at the UN and the ICC.
  4. There are many other countries with a deep interest in the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, not just Israel and Saudi Arabia, but the European states – Britain, France, Germany and Russia – that have been sponsors of the negotiations, but, for very different reasons, even countries like China, another sponsor, which has a strategic interest in Middle East stability as it strives to develop a 21st century Maritime Silk Road conjoined with a Silk Road economic belt in the region to create an economic corridor across Eurasia as a main objective in its One Belt, One Road strategy.
  5. Though initially I not only supported the effort of a breakout with Iran and thought there was more than a 50/50 chance the negotiations could succeed, now I am very dubious that a positive agreement will result. This will not be because of Republican sabotage but because the differences between Iran and the U.S. over the terms of the deal run too deep.

In summary, the term “brouhaha” is rooted in the French brouhaha, a corruption of Hebrew בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא; barúkh habá, “blessed is he who comes,” a greeting of welcome in Israel. A brouhaha is welcome rather than an imbroglio because it is only a state of social agitation in which a relatively minor incident has grown out of all proportion and articulated in a hysterical fashion. It is not a very difficult and possibly irresolvable imbroglio. The controversy and fuss will eventually prove to have been a tempest in a teapot, but a cover for the very serious issue that underlies it.

And it is to that very serious issue I must now turn, even if it is by a very circuitous route.