Argentina’s decision to snuggle up with the Islamic Republic of Iran lacked necessary context in last week’s coverage. Part of the blame falls on Israel for its outspoken response, which made it into pretty much every media outlet.
In my recent two posts on the matter, I noted the glaring injustice of the decision while continuing to admonish about Iran’s growing influence in the region as a whole. At the risk of abusing your patience, I’ve decided the issue justifies further illumination (last post on this for now – promise).
Why exactly is Argentina looking towards one of the world’s greatest human rights abusers – a state that two years ago Hillary Clinton called a military dictatorship – and away from the liberal democratic tradition it developed, together with the rest of Latin America, with the fall of the hated military juntas?
Why so easily allow Iran to exploit national/economic weaknesses to gain a strategic foothold and loosen the grip of international isolation at a time when the majority of its neighbors – most notably Brasil – have turned their backs to Tehran?
Emily Schmall, notes in The Christian Science Monitor last week, that:
“Banned from international credit markets because of outstanding debts with the Paris Club and World Bank, Argentina has brokered bilateral agreements with autocratic regimes like Iran. Pinioned by international sanctions, Iran has also had to look for new partners, finding in South America a sympathetic group of populist governments…
Trade between Iran and Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela rose to $3.6 billion in 2011, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. With the exception of Brazil, Iran’s anti-Americanism is a sympathetic cause among these South American nations.
An editorial in the Buenos Aires Herald, also from last week, criticizes President Fernandez for the geopolitical damage being caused:
“President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has always given precedence to the political over the economic and the harm done by this agreement to the political prestige gained both at home and abroad by her previous grandstanding in favour of probing the AMIA atrocity far outweighs any commercial benefits Iran might offer…”
Already it appears as if economic behavior could also be catching. As Reuters reported:
“Argentina’s government also has been criticized for cracking down on dissent by fining private economists for publishing inflation estimates that far outpace the official numbers. The country could face sanctions from the International Monetary Fund over its widely discredited consumer price data.”
While in the US, State Department Spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland – like much of the media – failed to identify the underlying geopolitical trend/threat in this decision. In her press conference and widely reported response, she missed the bigger picture: The ascendancy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in South America, right on the US’ doorstep.