Risky Business in Buenos Aires
Does Argentina’s relationship with Iran pose a national security risk to the United States?
9:30 AM, Aug 24, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Might the relevant funds be used for other, more nefarious purposes? The nature of the Iranian and Venezuelan regimes gives us ample reason for suspicion. On July 8, notes former National Security Council official José Cárdenas, three Republican House members from Florida (Connie Mack, David Rivera, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing “concern about information our offices have received regarding potential efforts by Iran to engage in nuclear cooperation with Argentina, using Venezuela as its interlocutor.” While Foggy Bottom casually brushed aside their worries, we can’t simply ignore reports that, in 2007, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked Chávez to help him secure access to Argentine nuclear materials. (In November 2008, Tehran and Caracas formally signed a nuclear-cooperation pact.)
As I have previously written, President Kirchner’s approach to the Islamic Republic is utterly schizophrenic. She has publicly demanded greater Iranian assistance with the 1992 and 1994 bombing investigations, but then (according to the document obtained by Pepe Eliaschev) privately offered to suspend those investigations in return for enhanced trade relations and possibly other concessions. The Argentine foreign ministry softly complained when General Vahidi, one of the AMIA bomb plotters, made an official visit to Bolivia, but Timerman subsequently praised Iran for offering to start “a constructive dialogue” about the 1994 attack. Such an offer is meaningless, of course, as long as Tehran continues to deny its culpability and harbor the Interpol suspects.
“If people want to flirt with Iran, they should take a look at what the consequences might well be for them,” Secretary Clinton said at a December 2009 State Department briefing. “We hope that they will think twice.” It remains unclear whether Argentina has gone beyond mere “flirting” with Tehran. But the issue is certainly a matter of legitimate and urgent concern for U.S. policymakers.
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.