May 22, 2013
Argentina-Iran: Playing what game?
It’s not going to be exactly the most glamorous breakfast at Tiffany’s between Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman in New York this morning. The Argentine minister had better have his digestive salts close at hand for what he will be required to swallow in his first meeting of the day.
The encounter had already been agreed between Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires before President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that there would be a bilateral meeting between Timerman and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi in search of some “concrete” results for the unresolved case of the AMIA Jewish community centre bomb blast causing 85 deaths in 1994, for which Tehran continues to be the chief suspect.
What do Timerman — and the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration — really gain from the meeting with Salehi held on Thursday afternoon? What are the expectations for any “concrete results,” if any at all? Or is it, as is being suggested in diplomatic circles, another turn in the minuet of a totally aimless foreign policy where the notes are played loud without understanding the music?
Even if Timerman always dodged any reference to it, on Wednesday while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was giving his last UN speech, his Foreign Ministry second-in-command (Eduardo Zuain) was seated in the assembly honouring Tehran’s leader with his presence. An “‘upgrade” for the Persian whose speech last year saw then UN Ambassador Jorge Argüello (now ambassador to Washington) listening to the translation from the Farsi of the anti-US and anti-Israeli harangue.
It was the first time since the 1994 attack that Argentina showed this deference to Iran (announced by Cristina in her UN speech that year). Until then the Argentine delegation had always stalked out the moment the Iranian representative began talking.
And how did Ahmadinejad repay us? With Tehran’s usual contemptuous silence — not a word about Argentina in the speech of that year. Nor last Wednesday — it was not until the press round that Ahmadinejad remembered Argentina, conveying his best wishes for the future Timerman-Salehi meeting.
Meanwhile not only the Jewish community (the second in the Americas after the US’s) is pressing for clarification and convictions for the 1994 attack. Tel Aviv is sure to use its influence in other capitals of the world and it does not usually mess around. The Argentine government would be well-advised to take this on board — and give it some importance.
What do we gain by giving Teheran more time and a bonus pardon? More exports? Last year we shipped products, especially food (no embargo) to the tune of some 1.3 billion dollars. Is Timerman seeking to rake up some political-ideological brownie points for Argentina by showing the same anti-Western face as his colleague Salehi? He doesn’t need to — it’s quite enough with the almost zero condemnation issued by the Argentine Foreign Ministry in the face of the repeated massacres of the Syrian people by the army of Tehran ally Bashar al Assad. This shows us where we stand — in the middle of a dangerous game. Unfortunately, blindfolded.