Lula Must Not Undermine Brazil’s Chance to be the Next “Indispensable Nation”


Lula2RT.jpgBrazilian President Luiz In


20 comments on “Lula Must Not Undermine Brazil’s Chance to be the Next “Indispensable Nation”

  1. Sweetness says:

    Yeah, sometimes the problem is Steve is America- centric. And other times the problem is Steve isn’t America-centric enough. It would be nice if his critics could get their stories straight.


  2. Don Bacon says:

    “Steve communicates his America-centric view of the world very well.”– JohnH
    Hear, hear.
    Six nations, five in the West and Israel, of the 200-odd countries in the world oppose Iran. Three per cent.
    Iran, an Asian country, is supported by all other Asian countries except Israel. Japan, China, Indonesia and Malaysia are major trading partners of Iran. Include Pakistan and India also. And Russia. Even in the West Iran has major support from Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela. The 125-nation Non-Aligned Movement has continually supported Iran’s nuclear position.
    Not bad performance from “that buffoon Ahmadinejad” (Kervick). The US, with or without “buffoons”, should be so fortunate to garner such almost-unanimous support.
    So Brazil is on the winning side.
    For some unknown reason Iran is Steve’s bogeyman, to which he applies different, unreasoning criteria than he does to, say, Saudi Arabia and Cuba. Why? He promised to tell us some day. When will that day come, Steve? Or did I miss it.


  3. Mr.Murder says:

    Iran was under IAEA guidelines until our crony USA attempt to politicize that body as well?


  4. non-hater says:

    This analysis in this post is way, way too complicated. Most likely Lulu is humoring Iran’s public statements in an effort to open Iran’s oil industry to Petrobras.
    Always follow the money (unless religion is involved).


  5. JohnH says:

    After thinking about it, I realized that Steve is proposing to buy Lula instead of addressing policy differences. I mean, why not? Tony Blair was obviously bought from the start. There are plenty of impressive sounding titles to be conferred and lucrative sinecures to be had. There’s even the $250,000 chicken dinner circuit, that Clinton, Blair and John Major successfully exploited in their pursuit of wealth. There are lots of ways for Lula to pig out after leaving office.
    Sure, Lula could become head of the World Bank, where he would quickly bump up against a resolute American management, making the position no more than a sinecure. So he could either suffer apoplexy trying to institute changes, or simply party a la Wolfowitz.
    It certainly makes sense for Obama to try to buy Lula. Why invest enormous resources in realizing America’s singular obsession with regime change in Iran, as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, when you can simply buy off a few politicians, whose price is probably posted on e-bay already.
    Only problem here, is that Obama will still have to borrow the money from China, and they might have other ideas about how Iran should be dealt with…


  6. Roberto Antonio Hussein Eder says:

    I fully agree with some of the other commenters that you untreasonably take the position that the policy of the U.S. and Obama/Clinton towards Iran’s nuclear development is the correct one, and that Brazil’s Lula had better watch out if he tries to sympathize with Iran’s policies.
    Americans tend to demonize Iran, probably because of Netanyahu’s irrational judgment that Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel.
    Iranians have voiced condemnation of Israel’s unethical and cruel treatment of its Palestinian neighbors, and for that, many Israelis and Americans call Iran a supporter of terrorism for its financial support of fellow Shiites in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and for its support of persecuted Palestinians in Gaza.
    I am thankful that Lula is not as pre-judgmental on Iran’s intentions as you would prefer. If it weren’t for Lula’s intervention, Clinton and the other hardliners would already be imposing “crippling” sanctions on Iranians, which we all know, would be a significant step to ultimately bombing Tehran and killing Iranians.


  7. rc says:

    The shifting between the use of the “West” and “US” as labels is interesting.
    The “West” is simply US policy makers attempting to give the impression there is some form of wider global solidarity. Obviously it is simply a virtual collection of ‘special’ relationships with vassal states.
    I suspect very few of these sovereign national entities give a rats about something so far and remote as nuclear power development in Iran — especially as Iran is framed by three states not signed to the NPT. Any solution to this alleged issue is obviously a regional one. The purpose of a system is what it does


  8. Dan Kervick says:

    “Unless we reject that premise, it’s not in Brazil’s interest to ignore the other players.”
    Of course not. But there isn’t the slightest indication that Lula is ignoring the other players, or that he misunderstands the current diplomatic situation.
    Washington needs Lula’s intervention, whatever they are saying publicly. Obama has allowed his administration to invest *way* too much political capital in the Iran business, and to ratchet up US domestic fears well beyond a point that is warranted by the actual degree of threat. He has now pushed our country into an unsustainable forked-tongue stance on nuclear proliferation, according to which some countries (like Brazil) get to have domestic nuclear programs and others don’t, according as it suits the tastes of a few western powers, affecting stale colonialist airs. Obama has been pursuing a hat-in-hand beg-for-sanctions campaign for months, horse-trading with Russia and others for cooperation on limited sanctions that will never work anyway.
    He has no military options, already being saddled with two wastefully expensive wars, a broken down army and a busted treasury. And even if he didn’t have those wars to worry about, he knows how stupid, impractical and immoral it would be to replay Iraq, and launch some endless shitskrieg on Iran and its people to chase after ghost nuclear WMDs.
    But he has now turned Iran and its imaginary nuclear weapon into a point of US honor. He needs someone to bail him out of the insanity, whether he wants to admit it or not.
    We have been at war now for almost nine years in Afghanistan. Nine freaking years. In … Afghanistan! From one week to the next you can’t tell what the governing strategic goal is over in that basket case country – this week its apparently helping little girls go to school – as the tactics morph from one strange operation to another.


  9. dbm says:

    POA, Dan,
    Only briefly, because the thread is about Brazil:
    Yes, it is true that the final approval of a specific project in a multi-year NEPA CE process occurred a little more than two months after Obama took office. I won’t go to far with that. I will agree with you that he owns the response, and he owns the policy decisions following taking office, and he hasn’t been as aggressive as he should be — this is an area where his centrist yearnings have not been helpful due to how far out of whack things have gotten.
    Back to Brazil…the U.S. is for the foreseeable future the biggest player at the “table” or “in the club” as it’s been put. The European powers are also established parts of the “club.” Part of the analysis of Brazil’s interests has to be how the U.S./Europe will react to Brazil’s actions — that doesn’t mean Brazil has to become the U.S.’or the European’s toady. But any analysis of what is in Brazil’s best interests should include how Brazil’s “audience” will react. The premise of Steve’s piece is that Brazil is becoming, and wants to become, a “player.” Unless we reject that premise, it’s not in Brazil’s interest to ignore the other players.
    John H., interesting point — would forcing change in the U.S.’ Cuba policy accomplish the same thing at less risk to everyone, including Brazil?


  10. JohnH says:

    If I were Lula, I would demand good faith evidence that the US is willing to accept Brazil as a full partner in its Club. One good way to test Washington’s intentions would be to force Washington to take Brazil’s advice now on something hard for Washington to swallow.
    Forcing Obama to be more flexible with Iran on the nuclear issue would be a perfect test case. It would clearly indicate whether Washington intends to take Brazil (and Turkey, Russia, and China) seriously or not.


  11. John Waring says:

    During the last round of hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, a senior army general admitted that, short of invading and occupying Iran, the United States could do little militarily to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In light of this, I hope the President of Brazil succeeds in moving the diplomatic process forward. Admittedly, he must not antagonize the United States, but neither can he be perceived as carrying our water, either. I hope he has the skill and the stones to pull off that balancing act.


  12. Dan Kervick says:

    BP was granted an exemption by the MMS last year from an environmental impact study on the Deepwater project. That was Obama’s own Department of the Interior; it wasn’t an exemption granted by the Bush Administration that the Obama administration simply honored. Apparently, the MMS has psychic experts who can just “tell” which ventures are environmentally risky without having to see any actual environmental impact studies and without conducting public hearings where skeptical experts can present testimony. They concluded that a spill risk was “minimal or non-existent” – which suggests either incompetence or corruption.
    Your suggestion that Obama is only responsible if he somehow knew that a spill would occur and green-lighted it anyway makes no sense. It’s the federal government’s job to exercise environmental oversight. If the Feds were asleep at the switch, or failed to do their job due either to inadequate science or corrupt relationships with the oil business, then they are at fault even if they sincerely believed in their ambitious little hearts that there would be no trouble. For Pete’s sake, one of the reasons a lot of us vote for Democrats in the first place is that we believe that Democrats will do more to take care of the environment.
    I am disgusted by the complacent reaction in many quarters to this utter failure of federal oversight, insight and foresight. Where were the reviews? Where are the contingency plans for catastrophe? Where are the emergency planners telling us what they are going to do if BP can’t stop the oil from flowing? Surely it must have occurred to someone that if you permit drilling into high pressure deposits at barely accessible depths a mile below the ocean surface, using unproven new technologies and blowout protectors that have never been shown to function at these depths, you are going to be in a world of shit if a blowout occurs.
    Obama’s main reaction so far? “Don’t look at me. This one’s on BP!” And yet Obama’s administration is the one that green-lighted this project, and let BP go ahead without adequate pre-project environmental study. I can just imagine Obama’s political advisers, imploring not to take one degree of ownership of this mess now that it has happened. But that’s them all over – passing the buck whenever they can.
    They called Clinton, “Slick Willy”. We can call this spill, “Barry’s Slick”.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The Cover-up: BP’s Crude Politics and the Looming Environmental Mega-Disaster
    by Wayne Madsen
    Global Research, May 9, 2010
    WMR has been informed by sources in the US Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Florida Department of Environmental Protection that the Obama White House and British Petroleum (BP), which pumped $71,000 into Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — more than John McCain or Hillary Clinton–, are covering up the magnitude of the volcanic-level oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and working together to limit BP’s liability for damage caused by what can be called a “mega-disaster.”
    Yes, DBM, it IS in fact Obama’s baby, and he better wake up and get serious about it, and stop playing games. He WILL be blamed for it, and some of that blame will be well deserved if his performance of the last two weeks is any indication of his competence and grasp of the gravity of this disaster.
    On the Iran thing, I imagine these sacks of shit in DC and Tel Aviv are worried someone will deal with Iran using FACTS as a foundation, instead of hyperbole and propaganda.


  14. JohnH says:

    Let’s see if I get this straight. What Steve is proposing is that Brazil be allowed to join the Washington Club as long as it agrees to ostracize Iran.
    Hmmm-this sounds like the same old divide and conquer strategy. Before Brazil accepts, it can learn a lot from the Club’s treatment of China and Russia–two other BRICs who have begrudgingly been allowed to sit in. Today the Club has singled out Iran as the baddest boy with Russia not far behind. It tolerates the Chinese.
    So what would lead Brazil to conclude that its membership would be anything but ceremonial? Why would Brazil be treated any better than its BRIC counterparts? Or worse, what would prevent it from one day becoming the Club’s next target, due to agricultural, energy, and nuclear policies that run contrary to Washington’s interests?
    Sure, Lula could conveniently sell out Iran in return for membership in the Club. But shortly thereafter Brazil might awaken to the fact that it sold its birthright for a mess of pottage.
    Let’s face it, the only reason Brazil is even a candidate for membership in the Club is that its economy made the country important. And the only way Brazil can become a real player in the Club is for its economy to continue to grow. IMHO selling out Iran may make Brazilian membership a little easier for the Club to tolerate, but it won’t advance Brazilian interests. Only Brazil’s increasing economic weight can do that.


  15. dbm says:

    Thanks as always for an insightful, thought-
    provoking piece.
    Dan, by “back door” I assume Steve means, and
    would be critical of, Lula providing a way around
    formal and informal sanctions that are in the
    process of being formulated against Iran; he is
    not criticizing any efforts to give Iran a face-
    saving out. Also, I’m pretty sure President Obama
    inviting discussions about future offshore gas
    exploration leases which would not occur for a
    decade or so has nothing to do with the Gulf of
    Mexico oil spill. As to the spill happening on
    his watch, technically you are correct,
    realistically, not so much. Unless, of course we
    see a Presidential daily briefing come to light
    entitled, “BP Determined to Spill in U.S.” (in
    which case it will, of course, be Clinton’s


  16. fyi says:

    Steve Clemens:
    I think it a good idea for you to read carefully the statements of Mr. Ahmadinejad with Charlie Rose.
    What is at stake here is not Brazil and her possible role in any future world governance [as though that is anything but a platitude], it is the future of Mr. Obama’s presidency.


  17. luis says:

    dear steve,
    this is a brilliant summation of what is at stake for all sides, really brilliant.
    thanks for doing this and sharing it. i think it will be read by people in the highest levels of government in washington and brasilia and tehran and throughout europe.
    i feel fortunate to be able to watch how you move into an issue and explain it so well, and in a way that establishes your rights to continue to explain these issues over time.
    we are all in your debt, and i look forward to seeing you again soon.


  18. Dan Kervick says:

    “Giving Iran a back door would seriously aggravate American policymakers who have enough problems at the moment communicating resolve to Iran’s leadership.”
    I’m not sure I understand this part, Steve. Are you saying that the US government does not *want* Iran to find a graceful exit from the current imbroglio? I thought the name of the game was achieving the nuclear nonproliferation objectives. If Lula can win those commitments through third party mediation, without forcing Iran to engage in humiliating face-to-face capitulation to its more powerful adversaries, that seems great. Does the US also require gestures of defeat and submission as part of the bargain?
    “Lula could perhaps be the person who helps Iran to move forward in ways that it has not — but in doing so, Lula cannot afford to be seen as acquiescing to or promoting Iran’s strident misbehavior.”
    Granted, Lula cannot be seen as merely appeasing Iran. However, Iran’s misbehavior in the nuclear power area is hardly strident. There is the matter of the additional protocol, about which international lawyers can argue. Otherwise, Iran’s nuclear program seems to stay on the legal side of the line, and they are given rather clean bills of health.
    Certainly, Lula’s move is risky. Points for that. He’s definitely not applying the lessons of the No Drama Obama School of Yellow-line Driving and Risk Avoidance. Whether the move advances or retards Brazil’s attempts to move up in the world depends on how it all turns out. If he gets a good result, some sort of agreement that both Iran and the US must accept, and that leads to a permanent defusing of the standoff, Lula will win a Peace Prize and glory for his country, and world leaders will then have to make a point of winning *his* approval to gain legitimacy for their schemes and plans.
    I suspect some vanity and haughty presumptuousness in the Obama foreign policy apparatus, here. DC’s prima donnas don’t like other countries taking turns on the stage they think they own. Do those around Obama require not just that the US achieve its genuine and legitimate security goals, but that Saint Barack of Obama be seen as the winner, that he be seen as putting Ahmadinejad in the stocks and taking Iran’s scalp to wear around his belt? Or is this some kind of Peace Prize jealousy – the previous winner miffed at the new pretender, like some Miss America who doesn’t want to give his crown away?
    Are they really worried that Lula will *fail*, and that the failure will bring untoward consequences? Or are they worried that Lula will actually *succeed* where Obama hasn’t, and that Obama’s faltering play for global Top Doggihood will be thwarted, and revealed as a flash in the pan?
    If Obama fails to achieve a new opening with Iran, and Lula gets to don the hero’s laurels instead, Obama will have only himself to blame for his timid and unstatesmanlike submission to US domestic pressures, and for walking back his initial bold moves several times over. He has struggled to hold together a constantly wavering and undecided western coalition around the US’s extreme and monomaniacal stance, driven mainly by US domestic considerations – a fact that is all too evident to most around the world, despite their diplomatic decision not to call Obama out and embarrass him on that score. The world really needs someone like Lula now to bail us out of this nonsense.
    All that said, Lula certainly is taking a risk. That buffoon Ahmadinejad would be well advised to take any deal that Lula has the stones to pull off, because if the result of this episode is the humiliation or diminution of Lula, and the failure of the best hope for third party intercession, Iran will really find itself thoroughly isolated.
    Right now, Obama has a big problem on his hands with this oil spill, and is not in a great position to play the global leader game. The gushing puncture in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico happened on *his* watch, in part as a result of *his* decision to rev up offshore drilling, and a colossal oversight FAIL from *his* interior department, a department he pledged to fix but which didn’t make changes until after the Deepwater disaster forced them into it.
    If BP can’t plug the well, I’d like to see the administration stop passing the buck, and step up and take ownership of this environmental crisis. The US just took a big ugly, stinking piss in the world’s swimming pool. We need to apologize to everyone, and then do something about it.


  19. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks JohnH…great note actually. I try to actually look at the issue from both sides — Brazil’s and America’s. There is a chance that President Lula pulls off something big in Tehran — but there is a chance, a significant one, he won’t. The risks to Brazil are that the US and Europe question its judgment and then begin to slow down the shift in the global institutional order, which has been too slowly moving as it is. Brazil, you might argue, won’t care — and will work around the edges of the inefficiencies of the current system. But the fact is that Brazil does care and wants its place — and respect in a reconstructed, modernized set of global institutions. That’s what is at risk — and I’d rather not see all parties end up worse off. All best, steve


  20. JohnH says:

    Steve communicates his America-centric view of the world very well. According to Steve, Lula needs to get with America’s program or risk his future.
    Unfortunately, American policymakers fail to realize that it is American’s agenda–not Iran’s–that is the issue for much of the world.
    Nowhere is that issue clearer than Washington’s nuclear hypocrisy. By what right, exactly, does America arrogate itself the authority to determine which countries are allowed to develop and use nuclear power? And by what right, exactly, does Washington arrogate itself the authority to coddle nuclear states like Israel while condemning potential nuclear-capable states like Iran and possibly Brazil?
    Brazil’s interests are in fact very different from Washington’s. Brazil is not part of the nuclear cartel, though it has substantial nuclear technology. Being an oil producer, Brazil is not eager to join Washington’s attempts at cowing oil and gas producers. Being a major exporter of agricultural products, Brazil is not pleased by the West’s massive agricultural subsidies and import restrictions.
    Of course, Washington would like to see nothing more than to have Lula sell out Brazil’s interests to Washington’s nuclear agenda, its energy agenda, and its agricultural agenda.
    And so, maybe Lula will become head of the World Bank. But that will not change Brazil’s national interests or make it subsume its national interests to America’s.
    When Steve writes pieces like this, he needs to try to look at the world from Brazil’s perspective, not just America’s. Then it will become clear that simply following America’s agenda is simply not in the national interest of countries like Brazil.


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