As the airwaves continue to fill with news and commentary on Sunday’s Iranian nuclear swap deal, the push for further sanctions against the Islamic Republic appears to have emerged unscathed. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) had agreed on a draft resolution against Iran. The draft is now being circulated among the rest of the Council, which includes Turkey and Brazil, the countries that brokered Sunday’s agreement. So far, the move appears to be a rebuff to the much-celebrated nuclear swap deal.
Beating the odds
Regardless of its fate, this agreement has confirmed Brazil’s status as a rising star in international diplomacy. When the country’s president, Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, decided to mediate in the Iranian nuclear affair, few took him seriously. Hillary Clinton estimated his chances of success at about 0%, while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was slightly more optimistic, placing the odds at 33%. In a bold move, Lula said the chances of convincing the Islamic Republic to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal were close to 99%. And like the surprise selection of Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Lula once again beat the odds.
Today, nobody dares to underestimate Brazil’s diplomacy anymore. But far from overstretching, Marcel Biato, foreign policy advisor to President Lula, says the Brazilians know their role perfectly well:
“We never intended to introduce a new solution. We don’t have the intention of dominating or having technical solutions for such a complicated issue. What we said is that the agreement that was presented last October had all the technical conditions to move forward, what was needed was to politically ‘square the circle’, so to speak. So what Brazil wanted to do was to find the conditions necessary for mutual trust to give last October’s agreement some political grounding.”
The Brazilians, having squared the circle on Sunday, are now signalling their intention to join, together with Turkey, the group of world powers that are negotiating an end to the standoff on Iran’s nuclear programme, also known as the “Iran Six”. The group is composed of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. And this is not the end of Brazil’s ambitions on the world stage; Lula has openly stated in the past his intentions to become a credible mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
With the world’s attention on them, some people in Brazil debate whether Lula should be busy playing ‘major league’ diplomacy in countries halfway around the world, with insignificant ties to Brazil. Brazilian analysts have pointed at Lula’s personal intentions to explain his bold diplomatic moves. The president, they say, may aspire to become Secretary General of the UN, thus he’s using his country’s diplomatic apparatus to position himself as an international mediator. Lula’s term in office is set to end in a mere seven months and with the presidential campaign in full swing he may have already become a lame duck. Suspicions aside, it is irrefutable that Brazil has achieved a new prominent position on the international scene. This will bring new possibilities, as was shown on Sunday in Tehran. “It is a demonstration of political will and courage to advance this sour agenda”, said Biato.