THE ROVING EYE Brazil-Turkey 1, sanctions 0
By Pepe Escobar
As D-Day approached in Tehran, it was as if the whole world was watching a
numbers game. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on his way to
Iran, said the chances of convincing the Islamic Republic to accept a nuclear
fuel swap deal were close to 99%. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, after
meeting with Lula in Moscow last Friday, said the chance was more like 33%. And
the United States State Department, via Secretary Hillary Clinton, was all out
pre-emptive, betting in fact on 0%.
Lula won the bet. If this was a football match - next month's World Cup will be
followed by billions around the globe - the final result
would be Brazil-Turkey 1, United States 0, with the golden goal struck in the
final minute of extra time.
Welcome to the new axis of deals: Tehran-Brasilia-Ankara. This Monday in
Tehran, Brazil, Turkey and Iran, via their foreign ministers, signed a
groundbreaking nuclear fuel swap agreement according to which Iran will ship
1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium at 3.5% to Turkey in exchange, after a
maximum of one year, for 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium to power the Tehran
Research Reactor - everything supervised by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) and Iran.
Lula described it as "a victory for diplomacy" - all the sweeter after American
and Brazilian conservative media relentlessly trashed him for meddling into
this high-stakes chess game. United Nations Security Council non-permanent
members Brazil and Turkey - playing diplomacy - won against the United States
(and its three European allies, France, Britain and Germany) playing
confrontation. It was most of all a victory for the BRIC countries (Brazil,
Russia, India, China) - the de facto, emerging, global counter-power to US
Predictably, the Obama administration and Clinton in particular are bound to
rehash the same old spin of Iran "failing" to keep its "commitments"; but that
will not convince the real, developing world-heavy "international community"
and will only (partially) appease Washington's powerful pro-infinite-war lobby.
How do you close a deal like this? Lula was very careful to stress that Brazil,
acting as a mediator, always insisted on building "trust" in its evolving
dialogue with Iran. Moreover, before arriving in Tehran this past weekend, Lula
had spoken at length with all major players - the US, Russia, China and France.
In Tehran, Lula and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who flew in
at the last minute - finally were able to "sell" the Brazil-Turkey joint
proposal for a nuclear fuel swap to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and
Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili only after 18 hours of
talks held behind closed doors on the sidelines of the Group of 15 summit. The
key negotiators were Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim, Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
Amorim said the deal "must be enough" to prevent a fourth Security Council
round of sanctions against Iran, a Washington/Tel Aviv obsession; he stressed,
"that is what other countries have always said, that it was necessary to have
this agreement, the swap agreement, in order to continue the conversation".
For Amorim, the agreement is a "passport" for even more sizeable negotiations,
making sure that Iran is able to exercise its "legitimate right" to pursue a
civilian nuclear energy program. Turkey's Davutoglu said the ball was now in
the IAEA's court; "Iran will write a letter to the IAEA, and we hope that the
IAEA in Vienna will react quickly and positively, so that there will be a
result in a very short period of time." He added, "There is no need for
sanctions now that we [Turkey and Brazil] have made guarantees and the
low-enriched uranium will remain in Turkey." Medvedev, although more guarded in
his reaction, lauded the Brazil-Turkey effort and extensively discussed details
of the deal with Lula over the phone.
Enrich me, baby
The agreement is only relatively similar to the proposal by the "Iran Six"
group (the five Security Council permanent members plus Germany) in October 2009 in Geneva. At the time, Russia and France
would come up with the enrichment. Tehran, not satisfied with the guarantees,
advanced other possibilities. There was no mutual trust. Negotiations broke
down. Now the novelty is the Turkish engagement - a result of the common
Brazil-Turkey mediation strategy.
The naysayers' choir is already louder than Metallica. Predictably, the
announcement by Tehran that regardless of the deal it would continue to enrich
uranium at 20% in its own territory anyway is leading the US and Israel to
discredit the whole operation. Brazilian diplomacy considers their critique to
be extremely flawed - stressing instead this was the first time Iran had
actually agreed to send its own nuclear fuel abroad for enrichment.
The French and the Germans - echoing Washington - already insist the
Brazil-Turkey mediation success will not prevent Iran from reaching an overall
agreement with the IAEA. The Western axis is actually obsessed with preventing
Iran from developing any uranium enrichment in its own territory - something
that goes against the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) itself.
There's no evidence, certified once again by the IAEA this spring, that Iranian
nuclear material at the Natanz plant has been diverted to a weapons program.
There's no evidence Iran is attempting to enrich uranium at 95%, as part of a
nuclear weapons program. None of this will prevent Washington from deviating
from its rush towards a fourth round of Security Council sanctions. It doesn't
matter that the votes are not there - and will never be there.
The 10-point, detailed declaration on the nuclear swap deal, read by Mottaki at
a press conference in Tehran, is not getting and will not get much play in
Western corporate media; but it reaffirms Iran's commitment to the NPT,
recognized by both Brazil and Turkey; and characterizes the agreement as "a
starting point to begin cooperation".
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not immune to playing to the
global South galleries, remarked after meeting Lula that the US was so keen on
trying to pre-empt the Brazilian effort because it could not bear the sight of
"two independent countries", Brazil and Turkey, acting like top diplomatic
What may have happened is that the BRICs, plus Turkey, in a concerted effort
these past few weeks, have made it very clear to the Iranian leadership that
without any sort of agreement the US would keep on pushing for more and more
crippling sanctions - and everyone knows what happened to Iraq in 2003.
So both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad seem to have got the message. But the key was
still to find a deal that preserved Iranian dignity. Lula is right; the
operative concept is "trust". Will Washington and its allies bow to the evidence? Or will they insist on playing a loser's game?