May 19, 2013
Dancing with wolves
Who would have guessed that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would ever be upstaged by perhaps her most abjectly subservient minister? And yet the agreement signed with Iran by Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman in Ethiopia has received infinitely more media attention than the presidential presence at the sterile CELAC-EU summit in Santiago — even if the agreement was announced by a flurry of CFK tweets from Chile to respect hierarchy (apart from the underlying certainty that Timerman would never play a lone hand without strict presidential instructions).
An agreement on such a delicate issue as the investigation of the 1994 bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre should never be presented to the public via the tersely simplistic technology of 140-character Twitter but that is as far as criticism can go for today, precisely because the bare nine points of the agreement hampers confirmation of whether it is as bad as it sounds — all we can do for now is point out that the devil lies in the detail (with the proof very much in the pudding). Thus it is unclear whether the agreement (with the Iranian suspects for the bombing to be questioned in Iran) breaches the sovereignty so loudly proclaimed on all other legal forums — what seems more certain is that this is not the Lockerbie solution promised by CFK last year because there is no third country other than the Addis Ababa venue of the signature. The arraignment of Iranian suspects before Argentine judicial authorities in Tehran may be a real breakthrough or a provocatively token concession since the agreement seems to oblige the suspects to appear rather than testify. Approval of this agreement by both Congress and the AMIA bereaved could be an important ethical and institutional safeguard or irrelevant if the victims’ families are heard out but ignored while ratification is railroaded through Congress without debate like so much legislation.
Apart from clarifying what this agreement really means, the onus is also on the Foreign Ministry to explain what Argentina gains. The benefits for Tehran are very clear — breaking its international isolation and neutralizing a major obstacle to its penetration of Latin America by thus reaching agreement over this pending atrocity with the scene of the crime, as well as the option of using the “Truth Commission” as a forum to denounce “Zionism” ahead of Iran’s June elections — but how does this help Argentina or even CFK’s own electoral campaign? Commissions are a notorious mechanism for shelving issues but perhaps the Addis Ababa agreement will end up doing far more to open up than close the AMIA question.