Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to meet Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva this Thursday in Brasilia. As much as the Barack Obama administration has been moving mountains to undermine the Iranian nuclear fuel swap deal mediated by Brazil and Turkey, both leaders (and US allies) are far from dropping the ball.
They may have mountain ranges to climb, but their point has resonated across much of the world; were it not for the mediation of two emerging powers and honest brokers, Iran would have never accepted what was in fact a slightly modified United States proposal made in October 2009.
In terms of the agreement, Iran commits to ship the bulk of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey for safekeeping until an equivalent mass of high-enriched uranium is delivered to Iran, plus fuel rods to be used in a medical reactor, ostensibly from Russia and France.
With its eye on full spectrum dominance, control of Eurasia and regime change in Iran, the Obama administration had lost control of the Iranian nuclear dossier, and Brazil and Turkey filled the void by starting down the diplomatic track. The real "international community" has interpreted the sequel for what it is -- Washington undermining the emergence of independent, non-US-centric global diplomacy, pre-emptively striking both Brazil and Turkey, these annoying "threats" to the major power platinum club.
Who wants confrontation?
Obama sent a letter to Lula in late April saying he would keep pressing for more United Nations Security Council sanctions unless Iran abandoned all its uranium enrichment (to which it has a right according to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT); the US has strenuously attempted to amend the NPT ex post facto). The letter -- not leaked in full -- confirms the Brazilian government version that the deal struck in Tehran followed Washington's requests.
This week, Lula sent another letter to Obama, stressing that Iran now accepted "in writing" what was once rejected, and that new Security Council sanctions would only undermine the possibility of an overall negotiated settlement. Lula suggests all players should bide their time before any vote on sanctions. Similar letters were sent to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
As much as Lula and Erdogan know that the US has the power to bomb their diplomatic efforts to ashes, they simply cannot back down. Danger lies ahead for Iran as well. After Iran officially notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week of the nuclear fuel swap deal, Ali Larijani, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament, was crystal clear. Iran won't ratify the deal unless approved by all 15 members of the Security Council, and no further sanctions are enforced.
Last week, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said, "We put the ball in the goal area, but the goal will have to be scored by the permanent members of the council and the representatives of the IAEA."
The problem is Washington does not want to play ball. Nor does US corporate media. Confrontational headlines swirl - from "Turkey's Iran standoff role irks allies" (Associated Press) to "West plays down Iran gesture, sticks to sanctions drive" (Reuters). Not to mention a New York Times report criminalizing Lula for being a diplomat ("Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader's Legacy").
The powerful Washington war lobby, with all its myriad ramifications, does not want any agreement with Tehran. Washed out neo-conservatives, allied with the powerful Israel Lobby, it wants to go back to George W Bush's time, with Iran as a card-carrying "axis of evil" member bound to be shocked and awed. Pentagon types overwhelmingly want at least hardcore sanctions. In the minority are the realists and the left wing of the Democratic Party - in favor of negotiations.
Meanwhile, Obama is drowned in his own administration's oil spill -- as Secretary of State Hillary "dominatrix" Clinton and Pentagon supremo Robert Gates have been unleashed to keep hammering the (false) tune of Iran as a major security challenge to the US.
Under the heat of the 24-hour news cycle, few people remember how Obama, in early 2009, wanted to engage in direct negotiations with Iran. The logic now is an all-out charge for sanctions as a way to appease the Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel, (maybe) prevent it from conducting an unilateral bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities, and as a carrot for negotiations over Palestine. In a nutshell, this is what passes for the Obama administration policy regarding Iran.
The Russian roulette
Another source of widespread puzzlement is what Russia is actually up to with its support of the current draft sanctions resolution at the Security Council. Russian analyst Konstantin Makiyenko said last week that another round of sanctions would torpedo Iran-Russia military-technical cooperation, including the delivery to Iran of S-300 surface-to-air missiles. "The first contract for the delivery of Tor M-1 air-defense missile systems was signed in 2006, and for deliveries of the S-300, in 2007, but the contract has still not been executed. Russia is citing technical problems."
Without the S-300s it would be much harder for Iran to counteract a possible Israeli strike. Western diplomats insist Moscow has made private guarantees that it won't deliver the S-300s to Iran. What's likely is that it is keeping the delivery on hold as a pawn in a larger negotiation with both the US and Iran. Especially as the Obama administration is pulling out no stops to seduce the Russians. Last week, the US suspended a trade ban on four Russian weapons manufacturers -- as Moscow had requested. On the other hand, Iran's first nuclear power station, the Russian-built plant at Bushehr, will finally have its first reactor online in August -- Washington's alarm notwithstanding.
Arguably China and Russia -- both avid proponents of a multipolar world -- will not allow the Obama administration's hardcore tactics to win at the Security Council over the Brazil-Turkey diplomatic way. This compounds with the Obama administration antagonizing both Brazil and Turkey. Washington elites simply cannot stomach the fact that now Brazil is trying to position itself to compete with America as an honest broker in the Middle East. Arabs, Persians, Palestinians can smell an honest broker when they see one.
The big picture is even juicier. It involves the Amazon rainforest and the enormous oil reserves recently found in southeast Brazil -- which, in the view of the Brazilian military -- are magnets for US imperial designs. Brazil is investing heavily in the modernization of its industrial-military complex outside of Washington's sphere -- buying from France and Russia, technology transfer included.
The Brazilian military is getting deeper into the Amazon as a way to counteract the new US military bases in Colombia. It's not far-fetched to imagine a long-term scenario of inevitable collision course between the US and Brazil centered on the immense natural wealth of the Amazon.
Meanwhile, the fact -- noted by the developing world -- is that Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama stabbed both Brazil's Lula and Turkey's Erdogan in the back by torpedoing the deal with Tehran and proclaiming a draft resolution for a fourth UN round of sanctions against Iran, after having both allies take an immense risk and put their prestige on the line for him.
All this is in exchange for a diluted-to-death sanctions package that will do absolutely nothing toward changing the Iranian regime's behavior (not to mention "regime change" itself). Who wins? Washed up neo-cons, the Israel Lobby and full spectrum dominance fanatics. Iran is now Obama's political twin to the Gulf oil spill.
This post originally appeared at Asia Times.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.