by Anna Mahjar-Barducci | Hudson-NY.org | December 16, 2011
Hector Timerman (Pictured) recently rebutted an article, "Argentina Flirts with Iran as the West Watches Nervously," published by Reuters in which Reuters underlines Buenos Aires' "quietly reaching out to Iran, worrying key Western powers and Israel as they try to tighten Tehran's international isolation over its nuclear program."Reuters also quoted unnamed diplomats as saying that Argentina's motives for warming up to Iran are unclear: "In addition to boosting trade with Iran, some envoys said Argentina was pursuing a Brazilian-style foreign policy emphasizing ties with nonaligned developing nations,"
Timerman's reply was immediate. In Telam, the national news agency of Argentina, the Minister, while accusing Reuters of having refused to publish his reply to the article, strongly defended Argentina's relations with Iran. Timerman said that the growth of the bilateral trade with Iran was not the result of the political will of the government, but rather of private agents. He added that he felt irritated by the allegation that he had offered the Iranians to abandon the investigation into the 1994 terrorist attack in Buenos Aires against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA): "Our commitment is to the victims of AMIA and to the desire of justice shared by all the Argentines. Iran's cooperation [to solve the AMIA case] is relevant to advance this cause, and that explains as a necessary gesture of good will the fact that our U.N. delegate did not abandon his seat while the Iranian President was making his presentation before the General Assembly."
Timerman's letter, however, appears contradictory and full of meaningless explanations. He affirms that Argentina is not isolating Iran because a constructive dialogue with Teheran is "relevant" for the progress of the AMIA investigation. Hence, he claims people should regard, as a "gesture of goodwill," Argentina's ambassador to the UN, Jorge Arguello's having remained deferentially seated to listen to the usual rigmarole of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Israel and the promises to destroy it -- thus breaking with the tradition observed by other Western states to leave the hall when Ahmadinejad delivered his hate-filled speeches.
So, let us get this straight: To have Iran "help out" in the investigation of the bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, ?Argentina is ready to give a goodwill gesture in support of Iran's ambition to erase the whole of Israel off the map?
Timerman then said he felt irritated by the allegation that he offered the Iranian government Argentina's abandoning the investigation on the AMIA attack. In April 2010, however, the Argentinean paper Perfil stated it had received verifiable information that in a meeting in January with Iran's ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Timerman had offered to drop investigation relating to Iran's 1994 bombings in Buenos Aires in return, it seems, for deepening economic relations between Argentina and Iran.. According to Perfil, Syria then passed Timerman's offer to Iran. In a leaked cable quoted by the newspaper, Iran's Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, allegedly told the Iranian President that "Argentina is no longer interested in solving those two attacks, but in exchange prefers improving its economic relations with Iran."
The Iranian government, perhaps secure in the knowledge that Argentina was not oing to pursue serious investigations, said that it now wanted to "uncover the truth" behind the AMIA bombing. Iran's Foreign Ministry wrote a statement declaring that, "the ministry denounces the fact that the truth about the criminal action has become the target of plots and political games and that Argentine officials at the time, whose illegal actions have been disclosed and convicted by the court in this regard, misled judicial investigation and set the stage for the escape of the real culprits behind the atrocity from the hands of justice through pointing a finger of blame at a number of nationals of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Despite these contradictory remarks, Timerman said that Iran's offer was "an unprecedented and very positive step" [sic]. The Islamic Republic, however, denies that Iranian citizens were involved in the Buenos Aires bombing, and said that it is preparing its own report on the bombing to bring forth the truth. Given that in the past the Iranian government has accused the "Zionists" of perpetrating the 1994 bombing, what the report will most likely bring forth are loopy allegations that the "Jews" committed the attack against the Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Timerman apparently qualifies Iran's allegations as a "positive step" towards solving the AMIA's case.
For more than a decade, Argentina had done little to investigate the attacks. When Nestor Kirchner became president of Argentina in 2003, however, he vowed to reopen the case, and called the neglect of it "a national disgrace." Several years later, former Iranian President Ali Rafsanjani was among those indicted by Argentine prosecutors and sought by Interpol.
Relations between Iran and Argentina have been virtually frozen for years, but apparently the frost was only superficial; underneath, business was as good as ever, and getting better and better. Last year, Argentina's exports to Iran rose by 70%. reaching a hefty $ 1.5 billion. Iran has also become the most important buyer of Argentina's corn. It looks now as though even that superficial layer of frost has thawed.
One major forward step was made by Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez when, last September, she told the UN General Assembly that her country was ready to seek mediation with Iran. The timing of the announcement could not have come at a better time for Iran, then struggling against sanctions imposed by the West and looking for friends, old and new, who could help the Ayatollahs overcome their current difficulties. Her announcement could not have come in a worse time for Western chancelleries, which are aware that their current chance of success in the tug of war against Iran depends on the compactness of the Western front to impose harsh sanctions.
Reuters also reported that a Western diplomat had declared that "Iran and Argentina have recently been taking a number of overt steps - in some cases in response to pressure brought to bear by Iran - to open a clean slate in the countries' political relations."
Apart from obvious trading advantages, Argentina seems to be pursuing the path of other Latin American countries in a revival of non-aligned countries, which are anything but non-aligned. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has created a pro-Iranian, anti-Western school of thought in Latin America; Argentina's government is evidently among his disciples.