US Media Censors US Support of Iran Fuel Swap

Sao Paulo - If you get your information from major U.S. media, and you
follow U.S. foreign policy, then you know that last week Iran, Brazil,
and Turkey signed an agreement for Iran to ship about half of its
stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey, in exchange for
subsequent Western supply of higher-enriched uranium to fuel Iran's
medical research reactor - fuel Iran needs in order to treat Iranian
medical patients, fuel to which Iran is entitled as a signatory of the
nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

If you were paying close attention, you might know that the deal is
quite similar to one proposed a few months ago by the United States.
An initial AP story on the Washington Post's website
last Monday - which I cited
at the time - said the agreement was "nearly identical" to the deal
the U.S. was pressing for, although by the end of the day the
AP article on the Post's website had been revised to
downgrade this comparison to "mirrors."
[The original AP story is still visible here.]
U.S. officials have dismissed the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey,
even though the deal is "nearly identical" to the one proposed by the
U.S. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, U.S. officials
are "thoroughly
" with Turkey for its role in mediating the agreement.

But if you get your information from major U.S. media, here's
something that you almost certainly don't know: Brazil and Turkey say
that before they reached the deal, they understood that they had the
backing of the Obama Administration for their efforts. The available
evidence suggests that Brazil and Turkey had good reason to believe
that they had U.S. support, and that the Obama Administration has
taken a 180 degree turn in its position in the last few weeks, and is
now trying to cover its tracks, with the active collaboration of major
U.S. media.

from Brasilia
- in an article you won't find on the web sites of
the New York Times or the Washington Post:

Brazil argues Washington and other Western powers had
prodded Brazil to try to revive the U.N. fuel swap deal proposed last

"We were encouraged directly or indirectly ... to implement the
October proposal without any leeway and that's what we did," said

In a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva two weeks
ago, U.S. president Barack Obama said an Iranian uranium shipment
abroad would generate confidence.

"From our point of view, a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of
low-enriched uranium abroad, would generate confidence and reduce
regional tensions by cutting Iran's stockpile," Obama said, according
to excerpts from the letter translated into Portuguese and seen by

I haven't seen any reference to this letter from President Obama to
President Lula in the U.S. press - have you? But in Brazil, this
letter from Obama to Lula was front-page news on
Saturday morning - I saw it on the front-page of O Estado de S.
, above the fold.

Note that the Reuters story, dated May 22, says Obama sent
this letter two weeks ago. The deal was announced Monday, May
17. So, about a week before the deal was announced, Obama
told Lula that from the U.S. point of view a decision by Iran to
send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad would generate
confidence and reduce regional tensions
. Note furthermore that
Obama's words - according to Reuters, this is a direct quote
from Obama's letter - actually specify an exact amount of transfer
that would "generate confidence": 1,200 kilograms, exactly what
was agreed
a week later. So the U.S. officials and media
stenographers (like Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post -
creates illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations
") saying a
1,200 kilogram transfer would have been great in October but would be
worthless now are directly contradicting what President Obama
himself wrote to President Lula one week before the deal was
announced. But if course you wouldn't know about that direct
from the U.S. media, because in the U.S. media, the
letter from Obama to Lula apparently doesn't exist.

Morever, Brazil says that before the deal, no-one raised the issue of
Iran's 20% enrichment as an obstacle:

"It wasn't on the agenda. Nobody told us, 'Hey if you
don't stop 20 percent enrichment, forget the deal'," said [Brazilian
Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim.

So, if Brazil is telling the truth - and there is no evidence that
they are not - then this means that President Obama's letter to Lula
did not raise the 20% objection, and the excerpt provided by
Reuters suggests that it didn't.

So far, I've seen one clear reference in U.S. media to claims by
Brazil and Turkey that they had the Obama Administration's backing in
pursuing negotiations: not in a news article, but in an
International Herald Tribune column by Roger Cohen reprinted
by the New York Times, "America
Moves the Goalposts

Cohen wrote:

No wonder Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister,
is angry. I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials
encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal: "What they
wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap. We
have done our duty."

Cohen's explanation for the Obama Administration's stunning flip-flop?
Domestic politics:

I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran. It seems
not. Presidents must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be
bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case
incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year.

Last year, the Administration concluded that Iran wasn't ready to
negotiate with the U.S. because of Iranian domestic politics. Now, it
seems, the United States isn't ready to deal because the Obama
Administration is afraid of Congress.

It's a shame we don't have a leader in the White House right now who
is ready to lead on this issue. If only we had elected this guy:

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