GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Jorge Paulo
Title of Paper:
Iran and Argentina: Between ethnic and trade lobbies
Paper Proposal Text :
The relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Latin American countries it is a quite new issue on the study of the regional foreign policy and during the last decade a growing number of articles was written about those contacts.
The core of the academic production was devoted to interstate relations, mainly the so called Bolivarian countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia) and Iran. Other countries like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico generated some attention due to specific bilateral issues.
Anyway the core of the academic production was devoted to interstate relations and little attention was paid to non-state actors and their influence on the decision-making process of the involved governments.
In this paper, we argue from the Latin American perspective that to fully understand the state policies implemented toward Iran during the last decade we should consider the interests and actions of two non-state actors: ethnic lobbies and trade lobbies.
Taking Argentina as a leading case (but considering other Latin American countries as well) we will analyze the impact of those two lobbies. By `ethnic lobby´ we refer to the Jewish community lobby (called `pro-Israeli lobby´ by some authors). Certain developments in Latin America and Israel brought together the Latin American Jewish communities and the Israeli government to the common perception of the so called ´Iranian threat´.
As a consequence this ethnic lobby worked hard trying to gain influence on the Argentinean foreign policy toward Iran. Those objectives were quite close to the Israeli foreign policy objectives, that is the reason why some authors refer to this lobby as ´pro-Israeli´ lobby.
In Argentina, DAIA and AMIA are the oldest and strongest Jewish organizations could reach the government after the brutal terrorist attack of 1994 where 85 people were killed. This specific (and traumatic) agenda: Pressure Iran in order to collaborate with the investigation of this attack or cut the diplomatic relations between Buenos Aires and Tehran, evolved into a ´anti-Iranian´ policy based on Israeli perceptions rather than in the concerns of the Argentinean Jewish community.
To be honest we should recognize that the different Argentinean governments were eager to accept this idea because they framed the intrastate relationship between the government and the Argentinean Jewish community as an asset vis-a-vis the interstate Argentina-United States relationship.
As a consequence, the main objective of the Argentinean foreign policy, which was to maintain and improve the contacts with the United States was not oppose to the idea of the ethnic-lobby (and Israel) - restrict the contacts with Iran – since the Bush and the then the Obama administrations were working hard to isolate Iran from the international community as a consequence of the concerns derived from the Iranian nuclear program and its potential military applications.
But since 2007 a new actor emerges in this complex situation after the trade relationships between Argentina an Iran reach the figure of almost two billion dollars a year. This ´trade lobby´ is composed by companies and economic actors that are the main beneficiaries of the Argentinean-Iranian trade.
This lobby (which is not a single one since it comprises different companies in many productive Argentinean regions) was able to reach the government and impose the idea that cut the diplomatic relation with Iran (the idea of the ethnic lobby) was not the best policy for the country.
This was the situation during the last years: two lobbies pushing for their interests and trying to influence the Argentinean foreign policy toward Iran and, while considering the impact of these actions on the Argentinean-American and Argentinean-Israeli relations.
What we propose in this paper is to analyze this process and the methodology implemented by the lobbies to reach the government.
Regarding the methodology, we will resort to official declarations, academic articles and some interviews that were conducted with Argentinean policymakers and members of the lobbies considered in this paper.
Since lobbies are not recognized and accepted institutions in the Argentinean (or Latin American) political culture they rely on the Media as the main strategy to make know what they want.
Our hypothesis states that in Argentina (but the consequence can be extensive to other Latin American countries) the political system is so focused on the President that lobbies have limited possibilities to influence the decision-making process if the ideas they want to implement are against the general trends of the Foreign Policy of the administration.
Besides that, the relative weakness of the Congress in the frame of the Foreign Policy and the lack of influence of Think Tanks and Universities on the political debates do not generate venues where lobbies can implement their strategies as they do in other countries.