Solidifying Friendships on the Left
As mentioned in my previous post, Argentina’s open door policy vis-à-vis Tehran has for several years now allowed the latter’s officials to strengthen ties at the local level. The presence of former Iranian charges d’affairs Ali Pakdaman at a major even event of the Movimiento Piquetero is glaring in this context.
Piquetero is not alone: Tehran is also supported by an organization of women called the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Originally established for an extremely worthy cause, since 2006 its leader, Hebe de Bonafini, has been consistent in defending Iran on the AMIA case. Indeed, she still “does not accept the investigation” (her signature appears on a relevant document that was personally handed in 2007 to Ahmadinejad himself).
Another organization courted by Tehran is the Marxist Movimiento Patriótico Revolucionario Quebracho whose representative, Fernando Esteche, heads the Islamic Politics Seminar at the national university of Mar del Plata (which regularly hosts visitors from Iran). Apart from openly supporting Hezbollah and mutual demonstrations, the ties between Tehran and Quebracho are mostly underground and are under investigation.
It’s the Economy, Stupid
But at the end of the day, ties cultivated by Iran’s mission with the local fringe are the low-hanging fruit. What truly interests Tehran’s emissaries are legitimacy – as demonstrated by the energy devoted to whitewashing the AMIA case – and circumventing international sanctions.
Enter the Argentinean-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, established in 2010. Founded by a group of local Argentinean businessmen, the chamber is undoubtedly recognized as an official Iranian body by the Argentinean authorities.
Two prominent figures are conspicuous in the chamber’s establishment and operations: Pakdaman (surprise, surprise), for Iran; and Dr. Leonardo Damián Díaz, previously General Manager of the LSG Investment Group, on the Argentinean side.
Damián Díaz is a serious guy: an Argentinean lawyer from the University of Belgrano specializing in criminal and business law, who for 12 years served as a member of the Argentinean team to the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). He’s also an independent player for strategic consulting and negotiation between Argentinean and foreign companies.
Oh, one more thing: he’s also a coordinator in website discussion rooms that defend Iran on AMIA. These chats also dwell on the possibilities of national revolution in Argentina…
Postscript: Rabbani’s Still Around
Turns out that Mohsen Rabbani, Iran’s cultural attaché to Buenos Aires at the time of the AMIA bombing and wanted for murder, continues to preach to his Argentine followers from Iran – despite the time passed since his escape. It’s right there, on the website of the Asociación Argentina Islámica. Apparently even if you can take Iran’s diplomats out of Argentina, its shadow diplomacy will remain anyway.
- Argentina’s president to Obama: U.S. must include AMIA bombing in Iran talks (jta.org)
- AMIA bombing MOU between Iran, Argentina faces challenges (theiranproject.com)
- Iran Emerging from the Shadows in Argentina (shadow-diplomacy.com)