Iran, Brazil, and Turkey: What’s The Deal?

The New York Times, among others, is reporting that Turkey, Brazil, and Iran have agreed “in principle” to a nuclear fuel-swap that the three countries hope can placate the United States and its P5+1 partners at least enough to avoid a new round of Security Council sanctions on Iran.

More details will be available today, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

The deal was reached after Turkey Prime Minister Erdogan — who said on Friday that he would not attend the talks in Iran this weekend due to insufficient progress in the negotiations — canceled a trip to Azerbaijan and joined his Brazilian and Iranian counterparts in Tehran on Sunday.

This is big news and geopolitical drama at its highest — but questions remain: “What precisely is the agreement — and is it something the United States will support?”

If the Obama administration considers the agreement merely what Steve Clemons has called a “political backdoor” that allows Iran to halt the momentum toward further sanctions without making meaningful concessions on its nuclear program, then there will be a very interesting divide between the Western P5+1 powers and the emerging power centers in Ankara and Brasilia.

Given the close coordination between Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I would be surprised if Davutoglu reached a deal with Tehran that the United States cannot accept.  On the other hand, Clinton’s prediction on Friday that the Brazilian effort would fail perhaps suggests otherwise.

More soon.

Benjamin Katcher is Policy Analyst for the American Strategy Program.  Katcher also manages and contributes to The Washington Note and The Race for Iran.  This article was first published in The Race for Iran.  See, also, “Joint Declaration of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Iran and Brazil” (17 May 2010).

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