Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Re: Axis of Uranium Meets Middle East Peace Process

How many Middle Eastern leaders have to visit Brazil in one month for the U.S. State Department to figure out something’s going on? More than three, apparently. After I wrote Friday’s post on the serial visits of Peres, Abbas, and Ahmadinejad, Rick Richman called my attention to the exchange in the State Department briefing on Ahmadinejad’s visit:

QUESTION: Ahmadinejad is going to be visiting Brazil in a couple of days. Is the fact that a friendly government like that welcoming Ahmadinejad – does that tend to dilute international solidarity on the nuclear issue?

MR. WOOD: Well, President Ahmadinejad going to Brazil, that’s an issue between the Government of Brazil and the Government of Iran. What we would hope is that the Government of Brazil would raise some of these concerns that we have, many of which I’ve just laid out here, about Iran in those meetings. But beyond that, I don’t have anything to add to that.

So: Brazil is hosting the three major regional players in Middle Eastern dynamics this month. One of them is the president of Iran, the revolutionary, terrorist-sponsoring state Obama is trying to pressure on its nuclear program. Brazil – a nuclear client of Russia – has been following Venezuela’s path toward “increased economic ties” with Iran, which in literal terms means banking arrangements that circumvent sanctions, plus plenty of “legitimate” manufacturing and container shipping to obscure trade in prohibited goods. And the views of our State Department on these circumstances boil down to an absurdly banal bromide (the Ahmadinejad visit is “an issue between Brazil and Iran”) and a “hope” that Brazil will raise some of our concerns with the Iranian president.

Far from acting as our deputy, Brazil seems to be positioning itself to gain leverage with Iran regardless of how its policies undermine the P5+1’s threat of sanctions. Mahmoud Abbas probably overestimates the leverage Brazil already has with Iran, but in requesting Lula da Silva’s help with discouraging the Iran-Hamas link, he has shown a keener understanding of this month’s diplomatic flurry than Foggy Bottom.

One projection seems sound: if Brazil does go through with a line of credit for Iran, we should expect that move to bring Brazil into conflict with the U.S. Treasury Department, as Venezuela’s similar activities have in the past. What we do about such a financial arrangement between Iran and Brazil will tell both parties – and all our negotiating partners – everything they need to know about the credibility of Obama’s threats of sanctions.