Brazil Sends the U.S. Packing
You know that Iran is America’s primary foreign-policy concern when it dominates the discourse of a diplomatic trip to the Middle East. It’s even more significant when Iran is the main talking-point in another region, like Latin America, where nuclear proliferation is a distant fourth compared to the drug trade, government transparency and regional peace. You would expect something like this to happen in George W. Bush’s White House, an administration that prided itself on the fight against terrorism and the spread of democracy.
Well not so fast, because this same uni-dimensionality just transferred over to the current President. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just wrapped-up her latest visit to Latin America, a region where U.S. power has often been looked upon with skepticism and outright mistrust. History has been full of instances where U.S. intervention brought bloodbath to Latin Americans, sometimes for the meager purpose of expanding American business interests. So with this in mind, you would think that demonstrating America’s change of heart to the region would be Mrs. Clinton’s message. But as Nikolas K. Gvosdev of the National Interest argues, this was anything but the case.
Rather than discussing issues that are unique to Brazilians, Venezuelans, Chileans, or Columbians, the United States chose to spend most of its time lobbying for stronger economic sanctions against the Iranian regime. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that Brazil in particular sent Clinton with her tail between her legs.
Brazil has never really been receptive to western arguments against Tehran’s nuclear program. For years now, Brazilian President Lula da Silva has publicly stressed his support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, on the grounds that developing countries have the right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes under international protocol. Brazil, in addition to India, Pakistan, China, and Russia, continues to put forth the claim that the United States has been overblowing Iran’s nuclear capability from the start (and I tend to agree with them). Lula da Silva’s support for Iran’s nuclear program has reached to such heights that his government invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil for an official and cordial diplomatic meeting, posing with the controversial Iranian leader in front of the cameras and undoubtedly causing some U.S. anguish in the process.
To the dismay of Washington, Clinton’s trip didn’t budge Lula all that much. In fact, Brazil’s reluctance to adopt the U.S. position vis-à-vis Iran is but a confirmation of its desire to represent the developing world in all its glory. With its economy the strongest in Latin America, with its private sector vastly increasing, and with its exclusive membership in the U.N. Security Council, Brazil is intent on making sure that all rising nations (whether in Southeast Asia, Africa, or the Middle East) have the same opportunities as wealthy conglomerates like the United States and Great Britain. The nuclear issue is only an extension of this position. Like the United States, Brazil has its own array of national interests, one of which is to get the world’s attention by pushing its diplomatic weight across the world stage.
Overall, this was a pretty bad week for the U.S. diplomatic core. Brazil is not tagging along, the region still has its problems with Washington, and the developed-developing world dichotomy is split ever further apart. Brace for a tough few months at the U.N. Security Council, and expect additional Iranian sanctions to be divided between the rich and poor. And for those in the middle, like Brazil and Turkey, expect them to jump to the side where their power will be on full display; the side of the poor and underdeveloped.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of the Economist**