May 25, 2013
When President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced dialogue with Iran in her United Nations General Assembly speech on Tuesday, the Herald’s editorial response was to comment that the initiative was neither good or bad in itself but depended on how it played out with “the proof in the pudding” — thus “if dialogue is allowed to proceed on Iranian terms of a pleasant chat about general bilateral relations (possibly including some lucrative grain trading) with an umbrella over the 1994 terrorist bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre,” this would warrant a harsher verdict than a tough stance, “e.g. calling off the dialogue altogether unless Tehran hands over the current and former officials wanted by Interpol in connection with AMIA.” Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and his Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi duly met and the first impression amid the hermetic secrecy was closer to the “pleasant chat” than the “tough stance.” If the negotiations starting next month in Geneva quickly lead to Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi and others being handed over to justice, we owe Timerman an apology but the “working group” set up to probe AMIA seems largely on Iranian terms and the general thrust of the meeting to “relaunch the relationship.”
Yet even if this “constructive engagement” initiative does lead to an AMIA case breakthrough, next year’s Security Council member is playing a dangerous game in flirting with a rogue state whose nuclear programme worries most of the world — Timerman of all people should know better after passing most of his brief diplomatic career in the United States. It is true that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refrained from immediately sabotaging the initiative by delivering what was almost certainly the most moderate of his eight UN General Assembly speeches without previous calls for Israel’s obliteration or Holocaust denial (after her comments on currency curbs and inflation this week, CFK would seem to have denialism in common with Tehran at least) but there is scant sign of Iran taking either the AMIA accusations or Argentine justice seriously — with disturbing implications for the national sovereignty so stoutly defended by the CFK administration.
While the benefit of the doubt can always be claimed for AMIA, the indifference to the global nuclear issue is disturbing. In recent times diplomats posted here and desperate for some good news amid import restrictions and currency curbs have been at pains to highlight multilateral areas like nuclear proliferation and the fight against terrorism as positive — what do they say now?