Lula’s Red Carpet Welcome for Ahmadinejad


From Robert Amsterdam’s latest in the Huffington Post:

Why then, with so much going for him and his country, should he make such controversial choices in his friends? Lula’s increasingly warm embrace of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, including an official state visit to Brazil Nov. 23-26, is causing many of his fawning admirers to rub their eyes in disbelief.

For those of us who enthusiastically support Brazil and its people, culture, and economy, the logic of the relationship with Iran is perplexing. There is no overlap in values, for example. This week Iran executed five people (including women), while another 135 juvenile offenders are on death row. Second only to China in capital punishment, Iran has also issued death sentences to five people now accused of fomenting unrest during the post-elections protests – a number which is likely to grow. Brazil, on the other hand, has proudly outlawed capital punishment since 1889, the second country of Latin America to adopt such a law.

The low level of trade between the two countries fails to provide anexplanation either. Iran doesn’t figure among the top 20 trade partnerseither for purchasing Brazilian exports or sending imports, andalthough Ahmadinejad has excitedly said that relations with Brazil have”no limits,” even oil minister Azizollah Ramezani has statedthat it is too far away to be a potential market for hydrocarbons(though oil and gas technical expertise is an area of interest).

The professed area of mutual interests is in the nuclear sphere.Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki describes Brazil as holdinga “common position” on rights to nuclear energy, while on Brazil’s behalf Lula has repeatedly voiced his opposition to sanctions.

However, the true motivations behind the Brazil-Iranian relationshiphave very little to do with these statements. For Brazil, the elephantin the room is Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose own jovial relations with Iranand the purchase of $6 billion in Russian arms are prompting hisneighbors to take action toward containment. What better way to procureinformation on what Iran is doing with its new “factories” in remoteparts of Venezuela than strike up a competing relationship – whichcould also be the logic of Brazil hijacking the Honduran situation fromChávez’s control by housing ousted President Mel Zelaya in theirembassy.