THE ROVING EYE Iran, Brazil and the 'bomb'
By Pepe Escobar
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim put it very politely at a joint press
conference with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran this
Tuesday. Amorim said, "Brazil is interested to have a share in settling the
Iranian nuclear issue in an appropriate way."
"Appropriate" is code for dialogue - not a fourth round of sanctions slammed by
the United Nations Security Council, much less the military option, which the
Barack Obama administration has stridently kept on the table. Thus by
positioning itself as a mediator in search for a peaceful solution, the
Brazilian government is in fact on a "soft" collision course with the Obama
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is visiting Tehran next
month. For "full spectrum dominance" US hawks this is anathema - as well as for
Western right-wing media, Brazilian outlets included, which have been hammering
Lula non-stop for his foreign policy initiative.
It matters little that once again Amorim stressed there is absolutely no
consensus among the so-called "international community" to isolate Tehran.
"Community" once again in this case means Washington plus a few European
countries. The global South, as a whole, votes for dialogue. The Non-Aligned
Movement (NAM) is unanimously against further sanctions. The Group of 172 (all
the countries outside of the Group of 20) is against further sanctions.
Brazil and Turkey, both against further sanctions, currently hold non-permanent
seats at the UN Security Council. Their common position essentially mirrors
China's and Russia's - both Security Council permanent members. Russia's poker
face tactics and China's agreement to "discuss" sanction packages have been
misinterpreted by corporate media and sold as acquiescence to Washington's
Not true. At the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) meeting in Brasilia
less than two weeks ago, these countries once again tacitly agreed new
sanctions are not the solution, and stressed the dossier should be settled by
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In Tehran, Mottaki and Amorim also discussed the Iranian proposal for a nuclear
fuel swap deal as a "confidence-building measure" that would benefit Iran
vis-a-vis Washington and European capitals. Brazil offered to enrich uranium
The problem is the new round of sanctions is being discussed in New York only
between the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany - and only
later will be extended to non-permanent members such as Brazil, Turkey and
Lebanon, which takes the rotating chair of the Security Council next month.
The heart of the matter
Each player has their own reasons to oppose sanctions. Moscow - which already
supplies Iran with nuclear reactor technology, as well as weapons - knows that
sooner or later Washington will have to concede the obvious; that Iran, a key
energy producer, is a natural regional power. For Beijing, Iran is a matter of
national energy security; further sanctions threaten this "stability" and fall
into the category of the wishful thinking of Secretary of State Hillary
New Delhi hardly failed to notice that in Afghanistan, Washington has embarked
on an all-out alliance with Islamabad, so India needs a stable Iran as a
counter-power to Pakistan interfering in Afghanistan and once again engaging
the Taliban. Brasilia wants to expand business with Tehran; and Lula for his
part has been adamant that more sanctions will only open the way for all-out
war, not prevent it.
Diplomats at the latest BRIC meeting hinted at the heart of the matter. The
BRIC leaders - the actual, new, multi-polar power that is seriously engaged in
keeping US hegemonic ambitions in check - have carefully evaluated all the
mixed signals, from Pentagon supremo Robert Gates' "secret" letter to Obama in
January reviewing the military options "on the table" against Iran to Joint
Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen saying at Columbia University that
a strike would be his "last option". They have evaluated the level of anxiety
in Washington. And they have concluded there will be no US attack on Iran.
They might be wrong. Veiled by a lot of smoke and mirrors in corporate media,
there's a furious catfight going on in Washington nowadays among full spectrum
dominance practitioners - from military types to American Enterprise Institute
people. But it all basically amounts to one thing: when to strike Iran - sooner
For the hawks, the bottom line is that Washington will never allow Iran to
"acquire a nuclear capability". That inevitably implies pre-emptive war. Iran's
"crime", so far, has been to develop a nuclear energy program allowed by the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and inspected to kingdom come.
Within this high anxiety scenario, it does not matter that Iranian Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently preached total global nuclear
disarmament, and once again repeated his fatwa against even the
threatened deployment of weapons of mass destruction. They are haram (forbidden)
according to Islamic law.
The Pentagon itself, via Gates, remains on the offensive - threatening Iran
with an explicit "all options on the table", that is, nuclear attack included;
and Obama, in an Orwellian newspeak masterpiece twist, has added that the US
will "sustain our nuclear deterrent" as an "incentive" to both Iran and North
Korea. Incentive to commit seppuku, perhaps?
So what next?
Next month, in New York, there will be a new revision of the NPT. The Obama
administration has already pressured Brazil to accept an additional protocol to
the NPT. Brazil has refused.
In essence, the NPT is extremely asymmetrical. Those nations belonging to the
nuclear club get VIP treatment compared to the rest. The additional protocol
increases this discrimination - making it hard for any non-nuclear power even
to conduct non-military research.
Brazil - which, crucially, hails from a pacifist tradition - defends the right
for any sovereign country to acquire ''nuclear technology capacity''. That's
what Iran has embarked on, according to all available evidence. So obviously
Brasilia had to be on a collision course with Washington as far as a revised
NPT is concerned. Brasilia considers it a submission to foreign interference.
As for sanctions, Washington needs a reality check. To believe that the BRICs
or countries in Asia and Europe will not buy Iranian oil and gas; won't sell
gasoline to Iran; and that Iranian banks won't develop ways to interface with
the global economy (they have partners, for instance, in the United Arab
Emirates and in Venezuela) is to live in Wonderland.
Chinese oil majors are selling gasoline to Iran directly. Iran will double its
production of gasoline by 2012 after expanding 10 refineries, and is investing
nearly $40 billion to build seven new refineries. Iran will keep swapping
petroleum products - mostly with the Central Asian ''stans''; this shows, for
instance, how it is able to import gasoline bypassing the international banking
And on top of it there's the black market. Jordan and Turkey smuggled rivers of
oil out of sanctioned Iraq during the 1990s. With new sanctions on Iran it
would be the turn of a new generation of Iraqis to hit the jackpot. As for the
military dictatorship of the mullahtariat in Tehran, it would love nothing
better than to use its energy profits to solidify its protective shield.
The BRIC leaders - Lula included - may have seen through the smoke and mirrors
after all. Bomb? What bomb? They all know Iran cannot build a bomb, for
instance, at Natanz, as long as it's being inspected to death by the IAEA.
Suppose Iran pulls a North Korea, kicks out the inspectors, pulls out of the
NPT and decides to build a bomb in some undisclosed location. They would need a
lot of water and power - and surveillance satellites would register every move.
The BRIC leaders have in fact concluded that Washington cannot do anything
about Iran acquiring "nuclear capability" apart from invading the country in a
joint remix of Desert Storm and Shock and Awe and conducting bloody regime
Rounds and rounds of sanctions won't stop it. Israeli, US, or joint "precision"
bombing would only set it back a little - not counting myriad nasty forms of
blowback. There's only one sensible solution. Washington has to sit on the
table with Tehran with a real "unclenched fist" and deploy all diplomatic
options in search of an overall Middle East security package - and that would
include full denuclearization; that is, no more "secret" Israeli nuclear bombs.
It's doubtful whether the Obama administration - assailed by hawks on every
front - will ever step up to this challenge.