Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Brazil Sends the U.S. Packing

Posted in South America/Central America/Western Hemisphere by Dan on March 14, 2010

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

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**Comments courtesy of the Economist**


8 Responses

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  1. derridaderider said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Too late, much too late; there’s no way Iran will back off now that it has got so close. All experience is that sanctions strengthen a ruling party’s position even as they weaken the country. A weak Iran with a strong government has more, not less, motivation to get a bomb.

    The Iranian bomb is a direct consequence of Bush’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Have a look at a map, reread the “Axis of Evil” speech, and ask yourself what you would have done in Iran’s position. As far as they were concerned getting a bomb was a straight matter of national survival. And while the need may not be so urgent now for them, having gone this far down that track here’s no payoff for them to turning back.

  2. WTraveler said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Additional sanctions will not deter Iran from pursuing nuclear power. Iran has every right to do so under the Non Proliferation
    Treaty. Anyone who thinks Iran will succumb to external pressure does not know the Iranian nation or culture very well. It is more than a little ironic that the U.S. with nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads and the only country to actually use nuclear weapons is attempting to dictate terms to Iran, ignoring nuclear weapons of Israel, Pakistan, India, and of course the U.S.’s own.

  3. sp3d2orbit said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Iran started its nuclear program long before the war in Iraq. They have no intention of giving up nuclear weapons, no matter what the US does. Most likely Iran will acquire nuclear weapons and eventually use them against Israel causing a massive war in the Middle East. Russia and China have no interest in stopping this because it will destabilize US interests in the region. China and Russia play a zero sum game when it comes to international politics.

  4. FarEasterner said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    whether you like it or not but russia it seems holds critical cards in regard of iran sanctions. as of now four members of Security Council oppose sanctions, especially Brazil and China. If Russia torpedoes the Western plan, then resolution will not be put for vote at all. Why Russia may object is easy to guess – new NATO doctrine, European missile defense, disagreements over Georgia, Gates’ and Economist’ anti-Russian rants. Sweet talking from Clinton and Jones may not be enough even for “symbolic” sanctions.

  5. Lucke said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I keep wondering, so much fuss about the Iranian program and nothing about the Israeli nuke stockpile (say mass destruction arms). Is this because UK and US (and else) have helped her to get the nukes, and now it is too late to back her up?

  6. Hitchhiker71 said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Iran is unstoppable now, and it is heading Israel’s route by building a nuclear arsenal and denying it all the way. Like Israel, Iran actually belongs to a religious minority who happens to have been historically threatened by their Sunni neighbours. Iran for centuries squeezed between the Ottoman (Sunni) empire and the Sunni emperors of India, and Afghanistan. Iran wants the N-bomb because Israel has it and Pakistan has it, so why not Iran? An Iranian N-bomb might just make the region safer, since no party will now want to use nukes since if you shoot first you will die second.

    What’s the solution? Let Iran build a bomb and stop let it blackmailing you.

  7. danieryg said, on March 14, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Ever since the US established its presence in the Middle East by overthrowing Saddam’s regime, Iran has been the hottest topic due to its nuclear technology. Though the issue has only heated in the last five years, the Iran nuclear program has been well underway before the beginning of the millenium.
    For Iran, nuclear technology has been labeled as a “civilian program”, a indisputable right to any independent nation and essential component not only for its long term energy needs (an alternative to Iran’s dependence on gasolene imports) but also to attain the recognition as a developed country. To President Ahmadinejad, reinforcing the nuclear program is a matter of both national pride and sovereingty from the “almighty” US.
    Mindless of how many sanctions are administered towards Iran, Ahmadinejad is not going to stop the nuclear programs. Seeing what happened to Iraq, Iran’s nuclear-less neighbor being easily conquered by US forces, fuels the drive to produce a stable nuclear power plant that will be able to produce mass components od 20% enriched uranium. The President knows that as long as the programs continues to grow, Iran will have more say in the way that the Middle East progresses. It is like a small dog barking all the time to get the attention of the big adults, except it has the potential to produce a nuclear weapon.

  8. […] more:  Brazil Sends the U.S. Packing Tags: claim, has-been, pakistan, report, russia […]

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