'Israel can't stop Buenos Aires-Tehran ties'

US neglect of South American countries seen as cause for growing relations with Islamic Republic.

Kirchner 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kirchner 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is watching the warming of Argentinean- Iranian ties with increasing concern, but with no leverage to steer Buenos Aires’ foreign policy in a different direction, Israeli diplomatic officials said Monday.
“If we could come to the Argentineans with fat checks or with oil, they would give our views on the matter more weight,” one Foreign Ministry official quipped.
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The official said the recent uptick in ties between Iran and Argentina had to do with Argentinean economic interests and a desire to tap into the Iranian market, as well as with a frustration at what the official said is viewed there as Washington’s neglect of the continent.
Argentinean-Iranian ties nose-dived following an Argentinean investigation into the bombings of the Israeli embassy and Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 that led to an Interpol warrant in 2007 for the arrest of five Iranians, including current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi. Twenty nine people were killed at the embassy blast, and 84 at the attack on the Jewish center.
Despite Iranian involvement in those attacks, ties between the two countries, the officials said, are now on the rebound.
While some interpreted last winter’s avalanche of South American support for Palestinian statehood as a result of Israel’s diplomatic neglect of the continent, the Foreign Ministry official said that the neglect South American countries feel is more from the US than from Israel.
The official said there is a deep-seated sense among many South American countries, including Argentina, that US administrations from both parties have for years not given them their due attention.
According to the official, one way to get that attention is to pursue policies inimical to America’s interests.
“This is a form of populism,” the official said. “It is fun while it lasts. You can say and do what you think without having to be politically correct.”
The official said that Argentina also saw that other countries in the region, such as Brazil and Venezuela, have both made inroads with Iran without paying a price, so they should be able to do so as well.
According to assessments in Jerusalem, popular Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner is driving a policy increasingly aligning her country with Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. As it does so, Venezuela’s friends, such as Iran and Belarus, are seen in Argentina in a different light.
The official said that neither Argentina nor Iran can disregard the twin bombings of Jewish targets in the early 1990s, but that both sides are interested in getting around the issue and moving forward on bilateral ties.
This, in turn, has placed pressure on the Israeli-Argentinean relationship.
Earlier this year, Israel almost canceled the planned visit of Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman after an Argentinean tabloid reported that Timerman told Syrian President Bashar Assad that his country offered to drop probes of the bombings of the Jewish targets in exchange for improved financial ties with Iran.
Timerman, in a testy press conference in Jerusalem in April, denied the allegations.