Dear President Lula, Again

Dear President Lula,

I wrote to you in the spring, deeply concerned about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's scheduled visit to Brasilia on May 6.

Thankfully, that visit did not take place.

Sadly, it is now slated to occur next month.

Mr. President, please reconsider.

You are a widely admired political leader. Brazil, under your guidance, has rapidly emerged on the world stage, to quote you, as a "first-rate citizen" of the international community.

Why would you wish to confer your considerable prestige on Ahmadinejad, who craves it but surely does not deserve it?

And why would Brazil, today a towering bastion of democratic values, seek closer ties with Iran, your polar opposite?

Mr. President, you spoke passionately at the UN a few weeks ago about the kind of world you seek to build.

You called for the preservation and expansion of human rights. Under the current regime, however, Iran has trampled on human rights -jo- flagrantly, brutally, repeatedly.

You expressed support for disarmament and non-proliferation. Under the current regime, however, Iran is rapidly arming and is violating binding UN Security Council resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines on nuclear proliferation.

You appealed for a confrontation with terrorism "without stigmatizing ethnic groups and religions." Under the current regime, however, Iran actively promotes and funds terrorism and has targeted specific ethnic groups and religions, including the Jewish community in your own backyard, South America.

And you articulated a vision of a two-state solution, a Palestinian state living alongside Israel. Under the current regime, however, Iran seeks a world without Israel, pure and simple.

In other words, Mr. President, not only does Iran not share your core views, it actively opposes them.

You will perhaps assert that dialogue between nations can change minds. At times, yes, absolutely.

But many have already tried that kind of dialogue with Iran, each claiming they could find the key to usher in a promising new era with Tehran.

The results prove the contrary. Iranian leaders have only hardened their stance over the years, while seeking to exploit the diplomatic and commercial opportunities they have been afforded in visits to capitals from Ankara to Moscow, from Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi.

Now, as you know, there is a new dialogue with Iran, but this one is meant to be different.

Earlier this month, representatives of six nations, the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, met with Iranian officials to tell them that patience is quickly wearing thin with Tehran's all-too-familiar pattern of denial and deceit regarding its nuclear program.

For now, at least, these talks hold out the best hope for diverting Iran from its dangerous course. Why the need to host President Ahmadinejad, when the effect, however unintended, could be to complicate the negotiations still further?

Mr. President, last spring when I wrote to you, the case against Ahmadinejad's Iran was already compelling. In the ensuing months, it has only become more so.

Consider the June 12th elections in Iran. It is clear there was massive tampering and vote-rigging.

Or the aftermath. How many Iranians who took to the streets in protest have been arrested, beaten, tortured, and killed? Recall the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, who came to symbolize the regime's violence against its own people.

Consider the fate of seven Baha'i leaders, members of a long persecuted community, who were seized on trumped-up charges and face the death penalty. The trial is scheduled for this month, having been postponed from August, since their attorney was thrown in prison after the elections.

Consider Ahmadinejad's hateful speech on Al-Quds Day, September 18th. Once again, he called the Holocaust a fabrication.

Consider his UN remarks a few days later, in which he accused Jews of all sorts of nefarious crimes, prompting a walkout from the General Assembly of many European and Latin American delegations, though, regrettably, Mr. President, not yours.

Consider Iran's trumpeted launch of Shabab-3 and Sejil-2 missiles the same month. Are these symbols of Iran's commitment to peaceful coexistence with its neighbors?

And then, of course, there was Qum. Despite Iran's effort to "spin" the story of its undeclared enrichment facility, it is clear that Iran was caught red-handed in a grand deception. How many other such undeclared facilities might there be in Iran? And what is their purpose if not to advance Iran's quest for nuclear-weapons capability?

Mr. President, do the right thing.

For the sake of your commitment to human rights and democratic values, do the right thing.

For the sake of your pursuit of non-proliferation and peaceful coexistence, do the right thing.

For the sake of the brave Iranians who have risked their lives, in some cases paid with their lives, to challenge the regime's abuse of power, do the right thing.

For the sake of all those in Brazil and beyond outraged by Iran's treatment of women, gays, religious minorities, independent journalists, student activists, and labor union organizers, do the right thing.

For the sake of Brazil's conscience and its example to the world, do the right thing.

Or, next month, will it be the red carpet, the extended hand, the captivating smile, the warm embrace, the signed deals, and the promise of closer ties with Iran?

Mr. President, while there is still time, I urge you to reconsider -- and do the right thing.