June 19, 2013
Tango or tangle with Tehran?
The academic sideshows in Georgetown and Harvard should not distract attention from the most concrete and negative result of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s week in the United States — relaunching relations with Iran. There has been a stream of comment over the presidential denials of inflation and currency curbs, from which side the aggression came in the tense encounter between CFK and her student audiences and the merits of her unflattering comparison between Harvard and La Matanza universities (whether it was a mindless gaffe gratuitously insulting a district with five percent of the national electorate, an invention of a malicious media, a subtle irony or whether we should be paying more attention to what she does for, than says about that university). Yet what CFK says (and it would be hard to deny that she says too much for her own good) ultimately matters less than what she does — hence the need to focus on Iran.
If last week we described CFK’s United Nations General Assembly speech as a giant sandwich against the international financial order between two Middle Eastern slices, her presence here since her return until yesterday afternoon could also be termed a sandwich between two Middle Eastern slices — namely establishing dialogue with Iran in New York and joining the APSA Arab-South American summit in Lima as from today. There are two perspectives for interpreting the overtures to Iran — as expressing a strictly domestic agenda or as a quantum shift in Argentina’s geopolitical strategy. The stated purpose of seeking new openings to clarify the 1994 AMIA Jewish community centre terrorist bombing gains credibility to the extent that the families of the victims and other parties in Congress are consulted and the pressure sustained on Tehran to hand over its suspects. Otherwise it would be hard not to see Venezuela as a key link in the new relationship between Argentina and Iran, while it would be tempting to conclude that CFK views her new best friends in the world as oil-rich countries with exotic (not necessarily leftwing) and anti-Western ideologies, a network including Angola and Azerbaijan — a sweeping generalization perhaps best disproved by responsible Argentine behaviour on the UN Security Council as from next year (although Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman’s explicit support for Iran’s controversial nuclear programme when he could have kept silent does not encourage optimism here).
Lateral thinking to crack open the AMIA mystery or Bolivarian diplomacy with perhaps a cynical redefinition of the AMIA case in Iran’s favour (revival of the “Syrian connection”?)? The jury is out.