Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO – “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This bromide, used by parents to comfort kids after they had been taunted by other kids, has another meaning, which the Curmudgeon submits should be applied to the current diplomatic row over Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The heads of government of Turkey and Iran, accompanied by President Lula, announced on Monday, May 17th that they had reached a deal whereby Iran would send 1200kg of enriched uranium to Turkey for safekeeping, and the five-power nuclear club would, through Turkey, send 120kg of the nuclear fuel Iran needs for a hospital.
This deal was brokered by President Lula, who had been in Tehran for a meeting of the Group of 15 Summit.
This is essentially the deal that the nuclear club, represented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had proposed to Iran some months ago and which it had rejected. The breakdown in negotiations had generated support for sanctions to be imposed by the UN on Iran; even Russia and China were becoming more sympathetic to the idea. The thinking was that if Iran wouldn’t accept even this initial step, negotiations had proven fruitless and it was time for the big dogs to break out the big sticks.
Lula, joined by Turkey, has respectfully disagreed, and has been telling the nuclear club that “sticks & stones” won’t work on Iran; rather, words won’t hurt. So words it was, and drawn-out negotiations, and, mirabile dictu, a deal was reached. It’s not a complete deal, not a long term solution, but it’s a deal, the first positive step toward resolving a stand-off over nuclear weapons.
Why did Lula do this? First, because he’s good at negotiations. He’s always been a negotiator, whether as a labor union leader, as a political party leader, or as President of a coalition government. Second, because he himself has had some difficult negotiations with IAEA over Brazil’s uranium enrichment program, more specifically the centrifuging technology needed to produce weapons-grade fuel, which Brazil has developed and has refused to show to the nuclear club for fear they’ll thieve it.
Third, because he is serious about leaving office at the end of this year with Brazil having been hoisted into the top tier of world powers. As a lagniappe, trade with Iran could be much bigger—perhaps they’ll like centrifuging technology as much as frozen chicken breasts.
The Curmudgeon has reserved his bludgeon for the nuclear club, whose immediate sceptical reaction was “this will mean a delay in imposing sanctions.” The club has been determined to isolate Iran with sanctions, it has said further negotiations won’t work. But they did work, a deal was reached.
How can the club possibly downplay progress? Not huge progress, to be sure, but undeniable progress. Had this very same deal been agreed after an Obama diplomatic offensive, the sycophantic press would have nominated him for a second consecutive Nobel Peace Prize. But because it was brokered by someone else, the nuclear club professes skepticism and disappointment. That is shameful.
Lula left Tehran shortly after the announcement Monday to attend the meeting of the EU/Latin America Summit in Madrid. All the heads of state of countries south of the Rio Grande will be there, save one—Porfírio Diaz, the President of Honduras. Why the absence? Because Lula, among others, had threatened to boycott the event if Mr. Diaz attended.
Unlike the U.S., Brazil and other UNASUR countries have not recognized the legitimacy of the election, held after the coup d’état that deposed and deported President Manuel Zelaya. But that’s another post.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)