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How Argentina and Brazil Help Iran

11:10 AM, Nov 1, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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Argentina and Brazil each have a curious relationship with Iran. Back in the 1990s, Iranian agents orchestrated deadly bombings at both the Israeli embassy and the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. While Tehran continues to deny complicity in these attacks, Interpol has outstanding arrest warrants for several current or former Iranian officials, including the present defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi. Yet the leftist Argentine government of President Cristina Kirchner is now holding high-level negotiations with Tehran to address the 1994 AMIA bombing, which left 85 people dead. Upon hearing news of these talks, the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires expressed “great disappointment,” reminding Argentina that the AMIA massacre was approved “in the upper echelons of the Iranian government.”

There is another wrinkle to this story, and it relates to the Argentina-Iran economic relationship: Back in March 2011, Argentine journalist Pepe Eliaschev obtained a classified document indicating that the Kirchner government had offered to freeze investigations of the 1992 and 1994 bombings if Tehran agreed to expand bilateral trade. As I mentioned earlier, Argentine exports to Iran grew by 937 percent last year. Now the two countries are meeting to discuss the AMIA bombing. Is that merely a coincidence?

As for Brazil, it warmly embraced Iran during the presidency of Lula da Silva, who served from January 2003 to January 2011. In May 2010, Lula’s intervention in the Iranian nuclear dispute prompted Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post to ask whether the Brazilian leader had become a “useful idiot” of the mullahs. But Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, has adopted a much less friendly approach to Tehran. In particular, she has taken a stronger stance on human rights. Last January, a senior adviser to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a Brazilian newspaper that President Rousseff had been “striking against everything that Lula accomplished” and had thus “destroyed years of good relations.” Nevertheless, Brazilian exports to Iran soared during Rousseff’s first year in office.

Again, Brazil and Argentina are not nearly Iran’s most important economic lifelines, but they have definitely become two significant Iranian trading partners, even as Tehran has moved closer and closer to a nuclear weapon. That is troubling.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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