Brazil’s President To Visit Iran In ‘Last Chance’ To Avert UN Sanctions

Published on Radio Free Europe /Radio Liberty, by Michael Hirshman, May 15, 2010.

A country with an active nuclear program comes under intense international pressure. Many suspect that, despite stated goals of producing nuclear power, a secret weapons program is under way.

While this scenario describes Iran today, it also describes Brazil during the late 1970s and ’80s. After opting for cooperation over defiance, the South American country voluntarily ended its nuclear-weapons program and has retained its civilian nuclear industry while raising its diplomatic stature. 

Now, as the United States tries to convince permanent members of the UN Security Council of the need for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its uranium-enrichment program, nonpermanent member Brazil has emerged as a dissenting voice.

The Debate Over Sanctions: … //

… Lula And His Critics:

  • Many would consider that an oversimplification of the issue, however. And some analysts have criticized Lula’s visit to Tehran, saying it simply buys time for Iran.
  • Jaime Daremblum, a Latin America analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, dismisses any chance of Lula convincing the Iranian president to engage in constructive dialogue on the nuclear issue.
  • “I think [Lula] is just playing his own game and Ahmadinejad is also playing for the cameras,” Daremblum says. “[But] it’s very clear that the regime in Iran is not going to make a deal of any sort and they are going to continue their nuclear activities.”
  • Even while Lula tries to mediate the nuclear standoff, he has been criticized for his tepid condemnation of Iran’s human rights abuses. In the aftermath of Iran’s disputed election last year, Lula compared the government crackdown on the opposition to a confrontation between supporters of rival soccer clubs.
  • According to Rossi, Brazil’s political opposition roundly condemned the soccer comparison, while Lula’s political allies offered no support.

What Brazil Can Teach Iran:

  • Nevertheless, Brazil’s own nuclear past gives it a unique perspective in the current standoff.
  • In the 1970s, Brazil invested heavily in an official nuclear program with West German assistance. The program came under strong international pressure, especially from the United States.
  • Brazil then set up a parallel secret nuclear program, which made major strides toward developing a nuclear weapon. Brazil later called off its weapons program, and in 1988, Brazil’s new constitution prohibited the pursuit of nuclear weapons.
  • Spektor of the Getulio Vargas Foundation praises Brazil’s decision to end its weapons program, saying it might hold a broader lesson. He says Brazil “progressively realized that it was much better off by relinquishing any ideas of producing a nuclear artifact and binding itself with existing international institutions.”

Spektor says this decision “has worked to Brazil’s advantage.” (full text).

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