It appears that Secretary Clinton’s much anticipated meeting with Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on March 3 resulted in the diplomatic cold shoulder with regard to cooperative action aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
While in Brazil on her Latin America swing, Secretary Clinton made quite clear the U.S. wants to “send a unified message to Iran that they are perfectly free to have peaceful, civil nuclear power. But they are not, under the very agreements that they signed, entitled to a nuclear weapons program. “Her goal was to open Brazilian eyes to the Iranian danger just as Obama Administration eyes have opened recently.
The Brazilian response to international actions to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions remains negative. Foreign Minister Amorim opposes “pushing Iran into a corner.” If new sanctions proposals reach the Security Council, where Brazil holds a temporary seat, Amorim warned: “We will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree.”
In a press conference with Clinton, Amorim tended to view Iran through the prism of Iraq, downplaying the nuclear threat.
“The alleged idea that Iran is, say, deceiving and misleading and not being very straightforward with Brazil, Turkey and China – all I – what I have to say is that I acted as ambassador to Turkey before critical decisions were made on Iraq. And that’s very much what I heard back in 1998, 1999. I mean, smoke and mirrors – were playing smoke and mirrors.”
Later Amorim admitted that while uncertain about Iran’s true intentions, he was confident more negotiations will improve the situation. “Even if Iran does develop the atomic bomb,” commented Amorim, “– I’m not saying it will do it or does not want to do it or it cannot do it. What I’m saying is that even if they do set out to do that, it’ll be a while.”
The Clinton visit generated one commitment. Lula promised to put Iran’s nuclear ambitions on his agenda when he visits Tehran in May. Perhaps while he is there, Lula can also request a field trip to the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz for a closer look at Iran’s whirling centrifuges.