Brazil, Turkey Engineer Breakthrough on Iran

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The Nation

Brazil, Turkey Engineer Breakthrough on Iran

The best comment so far about the brilliant diplomatic coup engineered by Brazil, Turkey, and Iran yesterday comes from the Turkish ambassador to the United Nations, who said, in reacting to the smarmy, negative reaction from Washington:

"I would have expected a more encouraging statement. We don't believe in sanctions, and I don't believe anyone can challenge us, certainly not the United States. They don't work."

Despite the huffing and puffing from the Obama administration, there are other powers reaction positively to the dramatic development. President Sarkozy of France called it a "positive step," [1]adding:

"France will examine this with the Group of Six [international powers] and is ready to discuss without preconceptions all its implications for the whole of the Iran dossier."

China, too, which had reluctantly joined the idiotic U.S. sanctions bandwagon, now seems to be backing off, and China's foreign minister said [1]:

"China has noted the relevant reports and expresses its welcome and appreciation for the diplomatic efforts all parties have made to positively seek an appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue."

Before traveling to Iran, Brazil's President Lula da Silva said that he believed that he had a 99 percent chance of a successful breakthrough in the talks with Iran, even as U.S. officials expressed extreme skepticism that anything could be accomplished. What Brazil and Turkey did is to get Iran to reaffirm the terms of the October, 2009, deal that was worked out in Geneva, by which Iran would have sent the bulk of its enriched uranium to Russia and France for reprocessing into fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Under the new accord, worked out by Brazil and Turkey, Iran will send about half of its enriched uranium to Turkey, instead. True, Iran has more enriched uranium now than it had in October, but the very fact that Iran is still ready to ship some of its fuel abroad is a sign that diplomacy can still work. In the United States, however, reaction is sharply negative. It's almost as if the Obama administration is more concerned that it's hard-fought battle to get Russian and Chinese support for more (useless) sanctions on Iran is unraveling than it is about a real solution to the problem.

The Washington Post, petulant and petty in its editorial today [2], called "Bad Bargain," says that the Brazil-Turkey accord will "do nothing to restrain Tehran's nuclear program," that it might "derail" the Obama administration's sanctions push, and that it represents a "major diplomatic coup for the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei." In fact, it might have been a diplomatic coup for the United States, if Washington hadn't foolishly insisted that the terms of the October deal were sacrosanct and couldn't be altered in order to get the deal back on track, after Iran first accepted it and then rejected it. It could have been a diplomatic coup for President Obama if he'd encouraged Brazil and Turkey to go ahead, rather than having his spokesmen pooh-pooh the effort and issue ugly warnings to Brazil. The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is angry [3]over the deal, in part because Obama met personally with the Brazilian and Turkish leaders in Washington earlier this month and then sent them letters urging them to reject a deal with Iran. The text of the 10-point plan [4], which you can read here [4], specifically says that Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has the right to enrich uranium:

"We reaffirm our commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in accordance with the related articles of the NPT, recall the right of all State Parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination."

That, more than anything else, is driving some at the Post and the Obama administration wild. In fact, despite the existence of UN resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment program, President Obama should have long ago declared that Iran has the right to enrich, under appropriate IAEA safeguards. He hasn't. The Post, in its account of the deal [5]today, calls the diplomacy by Brazil and Turkey a "revolt by smaller powers over the rights to nuclear power and prestige." How very imperial! Since sanctions won't work, and since military action would be a catastrophe, you'd think Obama would be thrilled to see diplomatic progress. You'd be wrong. The Post reports that, right on schedule, the United States has ready the text of a draft UN resolution calling for new sanctions on Iran [5].

Bob Dreyfuss

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.

 

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