Back Channel Negotiations in Buenos Aires

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Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has now taken it upon herself to shake up the intelligence structure in Argentina. Her stated reason is in an attempt to find the culprit of prosecutor Alberto Nisman still unresolved murder on January 19th. Nisman was set to present evidence to congress on January 20th that proved Argentine President Kirchner had been using radical professional protesters to set up contact with Iranian agents operating in Latin America. This restructuring of the intelligence system is reportedly intended to cover-up her involvement in the back channel negotiations with Iran.

Recently released phone conversations between an Iranian agent and an Argentine official have shed light on the inner workings of the shady business and political pacts being drawn up by Argentina and Iran. Alejandro “Yussef” Khalil, an argentine of Lebanese descent, has been acting as an Iranian agent operating in the country. His contact, Luis D’Elia, an ex-leader of a left wing professional protesting organization, has been closely working with President Cristina Kirchner and her Foreign Minster Hector Timerman. The primary objective of these discussions was to set up oil for beef and grain partnership between the two states. In addition to this economic deal, it is reported that Iran demanded Argentina’s cooperation in convincing Interpol to lift the arrest warrants for various Iranian agents wanted in connection to the 1994 Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires. One of these individuals, Mosen Rabbani, is believed to have been the mastermind behind the attacks while acting as the cultural attaché in the Iranian embassy in the capital. Luis D’Elia has become so involved in the dealings, that in 2008 it is documented that he traveled to Iran where he stayed with and interviewed Mohsen Rabbani.

Recently released audiotapes, collected by the Counter Intelligence division of la Secretaría de Inteligencia or SIDE – Argentine equivalent to the CIA and FBI – were handed over to Alberto Nisman by the ex-Counter Intelligence division director Jaime Stiusso (his real name is still debated). These tapes, dated from November 2012 to January 2013, contain conversations between D’Elia and Khalil in which they acknowledge taking active participation regarding the secret Argentine-Iran deal and other seemingly shadow deals between the two countries. In addition to the Argentine-Iran deal, the tapes reveal that Oscar Parrilli, the current director of SIDE, had been feeding Luis D’Elia information.

All this backdoor dealing has resulted in the President Cristina Kirchner, who still maintains her administration’s innocence in light of the mounting evidence, has decided to replace the SIDE, due to the fact that “the intelligence service has not served the national interest”. She has claimed that Jaime Stiusso used Alberto Nisman in an attempt to shame her administration. This is not her first time attempting to disrupt the Argentine intelligence service. Following her falling out with the previous director of intelligence last December, it has been reported that she fired numerous high level officials. Miguel Ángel Toma, an ex Director of the Secretaría de Inteligencia and believer that Iran planed the 1994 terror attacks, recently stated that:

“The purge of the service’s best anti-terrorist experts and the failure of the agreement with Iran has left Argentina open to another AMIA-style bombing… We managed to find the exact date and hour at which the decision to bomb the AMIA was taken in Qom [Iran]… I am extremely worried.”

The new intelligence service will be known as the Agencia Federal de Inteligencia (Federal Intelligence Agency). The director will be appointed by the President, confirmed by the senate, and will serve a four-year term. The congressional vote needed to institute the new intelligence agency will occur in the coming days prior to President Kirchner’s trip to China, and two glaring points need to be addressed during the session. First off, unlike other intelligence services in Western society, the SIDE had no congressional or National Security Council oversight and only answered to the President. This has resulted in the intelligence service acting as the President’s private police, which is not unusual once one recognizes that General Juan Domingo Perón originally structured the intelligence service with the guidance of Nazi officials. The second issue revolves around who will be responsible of organizing the Agencia Federal de Inteligencia. Few individuals are capable of properly setting up working intelligence agencies; thus, foreign governments, both friend and foe, will jump at the chance to influence the new organization. Rumors in Argentina state that Marcelo Sain, the creator of the Argentine Airport Security Police (ASP) and a supporter of the Bolivarian ideology, will be tabbed with leading the Agencia Federal de Inteligencia. Should these rumors become reality, it could be expected that the new agency will only strengthen their ties with various totalitarian regimes.

The coming months will serve as an indicator of Argentina’s future foreign policy plans. Either they will realize their current course is detrimental and return to dealing with Western nations, or they will continue to be more closely associated with Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China and Iran.

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