THE ROVING EYE Time for a nuclear samba
By Pepe Escobar
It does not necessarily take two to samba - but if you samba as a group the
result is much more infectious. Brazil has advanced a proposal to unblock the
Iranian nuclear dossier that is in fact the common view among the BRIC
countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the emerging geopolitical
counter-power to United States hegemony.
Iran has all but agreed that Brazil should be the mediator between Tehran and
the United Nations - rather than the axis of the US, Britain and France inside
the UN Security Council, plus Germany - to finally settle the Iranian nuclear
dossier. According to the Fars news agency, after his visit early this week to
New York, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, in a phone call with Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez, told him that Iran had agreed with the
Brazilian proposal for a nuclear fuel swap deal for the Tehran research
reactor, which produces medical isotopes for cancer treatment. The proposal
will be discussed in detail when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
visits Tehran by the end of next week.
The Brazilian government - on a "soft" collision course with the Barack Obama
administration - has been positioning itself as a mediator for some time. The
nuclear swap was first proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) late last year in Vienna. The idea was for Iran to transfer the bulk of
its low enriched uranium abroad and have access to nuclear fuel rods supplied
The negotiation stalled after Tehran proposed that the swap might take place in
Japan, Brazil or Turkey. Brazil's Lula, by the end of April, suggested the
better idea was for the swap to take place in a country neighboring Iran. Then
Tehran settled on its own island of Kish. The swap inside its own borders was
considered by Iran as a question of national sovereignty. The US and the
Europeans rejected it.
Ahmadinejad's position on the swap - which is the position of Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps -
developed just as the Iranian president, in New York, publicly refused the
US/European Union tactic of always bundling together nuclear weapons and use of
nuclear energy in the same discussion. In a call that rang across the
developing world, Ahmadinejad pulled no punches. He denounced the Security
Council and the IAEA as being manipulated against non-nuclear states and
expressly demanded the world to cease development of nuclear weapons and to ban
production, storage, proliferation, maintenance and use of nuclear weapons.
Looks like the UN apparently was paying attention. Apparently. On Wednesday,
the five permanent Security Council members, in a joint statement, supported
the idea of making the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone. That would let
the (nuclear) cat out of the bag - forcing Israel to declare itself a nuclear
power and join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The chances of this
happening under a Benjamin Netanyahu government are slim.
In fact, Washington paid only lip service to this nuclear-free wishful thinking
because it is avidly courting the Arab vote to back up a Security Council
fourth round of sanctions against Iran. It remains to be seen whether Arab
states, mostly US clients, will be duped by this. They do want a
nuclear-weapons-free Middle East for real, Israel included.
Egypt - which chairs the powerful 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) - has
circulated a proposal to the 189 signatories of the NPT calling for a
conference by 2011 on turning the Middle East into a nuclear-weapons-free zone.
Inevitably, the US is now trying to persuade Egypt to "soften" its tone and
basically wait and see.
The non-aligned countries in the developing world, as well as the BRICs, may
have understood the "real" danger behind the (non-existent) Iranian bomb: it is
Israel's behavior for decades that has carried the threat of a nuclear war in
the Middle East, not a non-existent Iranian "bomb".
And then there's the ever-shifting sanctions front. What is now clear is what
was already clear last month: no new sanctions before July, if at all. Both
Russia and China are turning the US-drafted sanctions package into sand. BRIC
member Brazil, alongside Turkey, the current non-veto power Security Council
members, also don't want sanctions.
All eyes now focus on the Brazil-Iran meeting late next week. If there's a
global politician that can breach the enormous divide between US/European
aggressiveness and the military dictatorship of the mullahatariat, it is Lula.
He's from the West, he's from the global south and he's a hell of a charming
negotiator. The time has come for a real nuclear samba.