New York Times Article
Political specialists are predicting a major fallout between Brazil and the (other) world powers due to the former’s invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit the country this week. They say that such a positive show of diplomacy will undermine the multilateral efforts to contain the Iranian nuclear program. Such a fallout, according to the article, could result in a failure for Brazil to retain any respect as a world power.
I find that assertion asinine for many reasons. First, talks between Brazil and Iran isn’t a new thing. According to the article, last year the two countries did roughly $2 billion in trade and Petrobras is helping Iran develop its oil fields. This isn’t surprising as Brazil is a major player in the oil trade. After the discovery of off-shore oil Brazil was considered as a potential member of OPEC. Brazil is projected to be a net exporter of oil by the end of this year, largely due to the high production and use of sugar-based ethanol.
Second, who better to talk sense into Ahmadinejad than President da Silva? Brazil embodies the best-case scenario that Iran could strive for. It is constitutionally illegal in Brazil to engage in the making of nuclear weapons, but they still manage to maintain a peaceful and strong nuclear power program. Though this program only accounts for 2% of the country’s power, they are in the process of building at least three more nuclear plants. Iran must also understand that da Silva influencial figure who can raise Iran’s profile given the right relationship.
Third, Brazil insists this visit is focused on increased trade and Middle East peace. As active peacekeepers in the region since 1956, it is no surprise that a rising world power is just as invested in the peace process as the current heavy-weights. It’s even possible that a fresh face towards a resolution of Israel/Palestine would help the conflict.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, engagement with Iran does nothing but support President Obama’s initiatives. There is no point to not listening to our rivals if we can gain an understanding of their position and values. Brazil is a strong ally of the United States and one visit with a rouge leader can’t change that. Brazil is allowing peaceful protests of Ahmadinejad in all the major cities, again an example of democracy and peace that we hope will spread to Iran and other authoritarian states. We shouldn’t see this meeting as a sign of betrayal, but as just another step by the world’s leaders to come to a peaceful agreement with Iran.