June 18, 2013
No tea for two T’s
This time Iran has not affronted Washington or the IAEA (the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations). Yesterday morning it was Argentina’s turn when Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast dismissed as a “sheer lie” some Western and Israeli media reports about a Tehran-Buenos Aires agreement to interrogate the suspects in the case by Argentinean justice officials but only in Tehran, according to the official Iranian state news agency FARS in its cable No. 9107143952.
This “sheer lie” attributed to “some Western and Israeli media” is not a typical venial sin of diplomatic language but a bullet straight in the forehead of Héctor Timerman, the woebegone foreign minister of the Cristina Kirchner administration.
Curiously enough it was Timerman who on January 29, two days after announcing the signature of the memorandum of understanding with Iran to investigate the AMIA case, affirmed in radio statements: “I have been assured that Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi will be one of those interrogated.” Therefore the bullet is heading straight for the minister and also, by elevation, towards the Precedent, who, advised by her foreign minister. so forthrightly insisted on the benefits and scope of the MOU signed in Addis Ababa between the governments of Argentina and Iran.
So much so that the President even challenged the AMIA head to explain his reasons for fearing a “third terrorist attack” as a result of the nine-point agreement signed with Tehran. Something that was surely lost in translation between Farsi and Spanish for the hapless minister.
But the Iranian affront did not end there. After some de rigueur paragraphs against Israel, the communiqué of the Holocaust denial régime explains: “The US and Israeli rulers accuse Iran of bombing a Buenos Aires Jewish centre in 1994, killing 84 people. But 18 years of effort have failed to advance the case or prove anything against Iran, indicating that Iran is innocent.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry press statement thus rules out any Iranian being implicated in the AMIA bombing, thus totally invalidating the MOU signed by Timerman and his Iranian counterpart Ali-Akbar Salehi in Ethiopia with the aim of constituting a binational “Truth Commission” to settle the case. It’s that simple.
As yesterday afternoon wore on, after insistent calls from Héctor Timerman, his Iranian counterpart, who was in Moscow, referred to the MOU and ratified part of communiqué No. 9107143952 by saying: “We have signed an agreement with Argentina on the settlement of the AMIA case and the two sides are committed to it,” replied Salehi to a question by IRNA at a press conference in Moscow. Nothing new. In other words, after frantic calls by the Argentine government to deny the “sheer lie” that “Iranian officials would be interrogated by Argentine justice officials in Tehran,” Foreign Minister Salehi had nothing to add and by not saying anything, he ratified the contents of communiqué No. 9107143952.
Silence is consent. And since it never rains but it pours, in order to spell out clearly Tehran’s position, the Iranian Foreign Ministry updated that communiqué with two phrases which were far from innocent. The first: “To settle the case we held meetings for two years with Argentine foreign minister (Hector Marcos Timerman),” thus admitting to meetings which Timerman himself denied at the time (after the journalist Pepe Eliaschev blew the whistle on a meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran, Syria and Argentina in Aleppo, Syria, in early 2011). In short, Tehran came clean but in so doing, wrongfooted Timerman.
The other phrase requires no further explanation: “Iran says Tel Aviv operatives were involved in terror attack against Argentina, aiming to wield influence over the then government of Buenos Aires. Israel in line with its enmity accused Iran of the attack.” The Persian empire and its Iranian heirs have a long tradition as skilled and cunning negotiators, who do not submit to any rules nor honour commitments nor respect what they sign. Two of the greatest figures of ancient history — Alexander the Great and Cleopatra — were left pedalling in air by the Persians in their time. The latter’s heirs today are champions of attrition and hide and seek — just ask Washington how often they have been sent hither and thither by the siren songs from Tehran’s harp. That’s why, in the face of the agreements which brought to an abrupt climax the wooing of the denialist régime which an optimistic and decidedly inexpert Timerman deluded himself into starting two years ago, perhaps we should be looking at the full half of the glass. This slight from Tehran not only leaves the Cristina Kirchner administration pedalling in the air. It also treads the same path already travelled by the United States, Brazil (with Lula in 2009 and 2010), France and so many others with fateful Tehran. Opportunity thus knocks. Perhaps now is the time to stop any political approaches to the Iranian regime, as so many other countries already have done, while continuing trade as until now.
That, of course, implies listening to the AMIA and DAIA Jewish community organizations and to the families of the 85 dead from the 1994 terrorist attack and to their request not to rubberstamp this agreement signed with Iran in the forthcoming extraordinary sessions of Congress. Which means finally gearing foreign policy to the domestic politics — and the pain — of everyday Argentina.