Lula from Brazil and Ahmadinejad from Iran. What is this — the new axis of evil? No — Luladinejad is a new axis of business.
In the latest round of the increasingly warm embrace between Latin America and the Middle East, Lula and Ahmadinejad, meeting in Brazil, signed agreements on energy, trade and agricultural research.
Ahmadinejad does mean business: he is traveling with 200 businessmen. In the long run, Brazil wants to export to Iran not only meat, grains, and sugar, but trucks and buses as well. And Iran wants to invest heavily in the oil industry, petrochemicals, agriculture, minerals, and real estate.
Then, of course, there’s the meat of the matter — nuclear energy.
President Obama himself, at the G-20 in London, admitted that Lula “is the man” — the most popular political leader in the world. So what is “the man” saying? He’s saying that Brazil supports Iran’s access to, I quote, “peaceful nuclear energy.”
When Lula talks, world leaders listen. He said, and I quote, “I told Obama, I told Sarkozy, I told Angela Merkel that we will not get good things out of Iran if we corner them. You need to create space to talk.”
For Brazil it’s the IAEA that should solve the Iranian nuclear dossier, not the UN Security Council. Brazil has the seventh-largest uranium reserves in the world.
The country enriches uranium for its own nuclear energy program. No one is accusing Brazil of building a nuclear bomb. Brazil has been strongly against unilateral sanctions on Iran. In Lula’s own words, and again I quote: “It’s simple. What we advocate for us, we advocate for others as well.”
And Ahmadinejad sang in tune. He even admitted on Brazilian TV that Iran and Brazil, I quote, “. . . can build partnerships to build nuclear plants.”
Ahmadinejad’s current tour of 5 countries in Africa and South America — Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Evo Morales’ Bolivia are also included — means South America especially is the way out for Iran do dodge more Western sanctions.
For the leadership in Tehran — the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Ahmadinejad political faction — Brazil is now a business partner and a strategic partner as well.
This is South-South dialogue in action, multipolar world-style. Iran sees Brazil as a possible mediator vis-à-vis the West — the US and Europe. Brazil for its part wants a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and more “soft power” influence in the Middle East.
And all this while Iran is not as “isolated” as Western propaganda would like people to believe. For instance, Iran is very much alert in the Caspian Sea, Iran is advancing its gigantic energy deals with China, and Iran is busy changing from dollars to euros.
It would be too much to expect Western corporate media to pay attention to what Ahmadinejad actually said in Brazil. He said Iran is willing to buy enriched uranium abroad. But the country won’t allow suppliers to set the terms. In his own words, and I quote, “No independent country would accept this proposal.” So the key question now to be debated between the 5 members of the Security Council plus Germany, and Iran, is about the volume of enriched uranium that should leave Iran to Russia, and then to France, and then return to Iran as nuclear fuel.
Ahmadinejad in fact made a startling admission at his press conference in Brazil. He said, and I quote, “We have the conditions to enrich uranium at 20% and we have the legal right to do it. But to create an atmosphere of cooperation, we are ready to buy nuclear fuel.”
Even before the Luladinejad get-together, US corporate media had hit the hysteria button, warning that Lula “may lose global influence” just by talking to Ahmadinejad and warning that the meeting would “chill Brazil’s relations with the US and damage its growing reputation as a global power.”
They still don’t get it.
Former Moldovan bouncer Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister, was in Brazil and Argentina four months ago. Shimon Peres, the Israeli President, was there last week. Same with Palestine Authority head Mahmoud Abbas.
Translation: Brazil, as one of the key emerging actors in the global South along with Russia, India, and China, may have a much better shot at global diplomacy than the heavy-handed US and Europe.
During his radio show this past weekend, Lula even proposed a soccer match next March of Brazil — favorites to win the next World Cup — against a mixed Israeli-Palestinian team.
So what if the UN takes a cue from Lula, and sponsors a tournament including the UN-5 — US, Russia, China, France, and Britain — plus Germany, plus Brazil and Iran? Remember those Cold War days when ping pong politics broke the ice between the US and China? Seriously, maybe the time is now for some real political soccer.
Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil, is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007. This video was released by The Real News on 24 November 2009. The text above is a transcript of the video.