When Diplomatic Opportunities Were Dismissed

When Diplomatic Opportunities Were Dismissed

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FINANCIAL TIMES 04/11/12
By Michael Shank

Sir, Your editorial “Ms Rousseff Goes to Washington” (April 9), by implying illicitous cosiness between Brazil and Iran, incorrectly portrays these nations’ relationship and the reasoning behind Barack Obama’s rebuff of Brazil’s president.

Claiming that Brazil’s refusal to join UN sanctions against Iran is what resulted in President Obama’s withholding of state honours to Dilma Rousseff is inaccurate. While the US government was busy dismissing diplomatic gains and opportunities – despite Mr Obama initially stating that the US was willing to negotiate with Iran without preconditions – Brazil and Turkey were trying to tack towards diplomacy as a way of avoiding another round of crippling sanctions that were bound to hurt the working class not the governing elite.

At the behest of the White House, Brazil secured a diplomatic deal with Iran in 2010 – a historic gain, unachieved by previous western-led negotiations. The White House torpedoed the deal in its rush to harsher sanctions. Under the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey, Iran would ship low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for fuel for a research reactor. By no means was it a sweeping diplomatic victory but it was a substantial confidence-building measure and the best deal the west had yet witnessed. President Obama should have supported this as a starting point.

There have been countless moments like this wherein diplomatic opportunities were categorically dismissed. In 2003 the Iranian government sent a proposal to the White House, through the Swiss, offering to put everything on the table. Iran proposed broad concessions to the US, including a cessation of support for violent extremism, transparent inspections, and adoption of the Arab peace initiative. But President George W. Bush, at the height of Middle East grandstanding, also dismissed it outright. More letters came, but were promptly rejected. And, like the Obama administration, Bush pursued direct talks with North Korea but not Iran.

Perhaps Brazil’s president should be the one lecturing the US president on state decorum and diplomacy, for it is America that has erred on its relationship with Iran, not Brazil.

Michael Shank, US Vice-President, Institute for Economics and Peace, Washington, DC, US

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012.