May 23, 2013
At the time of the terrorist attacks against Jewish targets in 1992 and 1994, the most frequent explanation was that they were somehow revenge for then President Carlos Menem’s role in the 1991 Gulf War — so why the insistence on a Middle East entanglement now? Unsound as the premises of the general reaction two decades ago were (if Iran had then just fought a 1981-8 war with Iraq with a million dead, why on earth would they be angered by an attack on Saddam Hussein?), such misgivings remain valid. Even a far more expert diplomat than Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman could hardly unravel the precise convolutions of Iranian politics (with elections just four months away) which caused Tehran to welsh on the January 27 agreement — perhaps tensions over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s son-in-law who once described Iranians and Israelis as natural friends impelled the outgoing leader to overcompensate by shredding even the most token concessions to Argentina — but a far rawer politician than Timerman would have foreseen trouble of some kind from that source. At least the reason for the pell-mell haste to ratify the agreement in extraordinary sessions of Congress becomes clear — before Iran could come out with a bombshell like Tuesday’s denial of any interrogation of its officials over the 1994 AMIA bomb massacre.
Despite being thus wrongfooted (not to mention Iran coming clean on a two-year negotiating process which the minister had previously denied), Timerman stuck to his script of an AMIA probe breakthrough in the Senate yesterday — about the only switch was to ascribe the last word to a judicial branch accused of blocking governance at a domestic level. If some hair-splitting legal semantics over the word “interrogation” makes Tuesday’s denial consistent with Iran abiding by the agreement, this was not explained to us — instead the government is pressing ahead despite Tehran’s insolent mockery.
Whatever criticism can be made of this agreement, it is not electioneering populism — there is no vast voting constituency out there howling for closer ties with the Holocaust denial nation. So why? When Néstor Kirchner left the presidency, he moved to the regional helm of Unasur. Could it be that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is contemplating a similar path in her own way as a Plan B to an improbable third term (or even a Plan A) — lining up to fill the vacuum being left by Hugo Chávez at the head of the far left Latin American world rotating around a Venezuela-Iran axis with this otherwise senseless agreement with Tehran part of sitting the exam?