This past Saturday 6th of May, Brazil announced to the world media their uranium enrichment program had been launched. On the same day Iran announced it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the current controversy over its uranium enrichment program was not solved peacefully. Two nations developing nuclear enrichment programs for the purpose of energy supply; two complete reactions from the world community and the media. Why?
The reason depends on who you ask. On one end you have those in the media and government that argue Iran, unlike Brazil is an inminent threat to the interests of world peace and cannot be given the opportunity to develop a nuclear weapons program. On the other side of the argument are those who would argue Brazil is not of key strategic interest and given the low approval ratings for the Bush administration (39% approval based on the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) Iran would be way of shitfing public perception. Sitting in between both sides, you have those who argue Brazil conformed to international law by following the strict requirements of the IAEA, while Iran refuses to do so.
The reality is that Iran is not guilty of perusing a nuclear enrichment program, but guilty of rhetoric. Populist statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have not eased the concerns of the international community and given the hard-liners in Washington the perfect ammunition to seek military action. On the other hand, the United States and the European Union are also guilty of rhetoric – by posturing Iran’s uranium enrichment as a nuclear weapons program (very similar to the argument used against Iraq over their weapons of mass destruction). Furthermore, the nuclear issue was a major consideration in Ahmadinejad's election last year. At the time of the election, confronting the West over their nuclear programme had gradually become a matter of national pride. The rhetoric does not only have populist political roots, but cultural roots. The large majority of Iranians are Shias; this is a sect of Islam based on the principle of martyrdom and sacrifice for one's beliefs. Iranians always support the underdog and adore those who are oppressed and have been wronged by powerful individuals or governments.
Iran has also been guilty of non working closer with the IAEA as Brazil did. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which Iran is part of, “a country has the right to enrich its own fuel for civil nuclear power, under IAEA inspection”. Iran’s possible retraction from the Non-Proliferation Treaty would be a clear example of the mentioned rhetoric and lack of cooperation – however Iran would not be the only country of “strategic importance” to the world to do so. Israel is not a part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pakistan is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korea is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (although it has announced it had acquired nuclear weapon capacity). Another example of how the rules of engagement dictated by the United States, the European Union and the media are not consistent. Furthermore, Iran's nuclear program like Brazil's goes back as far as the 1950's and was supported by the United States. The Nuclear Threat Initiative site features an very well documented time plan of Iran's nuclear program including the agreement between the Carter and the Shah of Iran administration in 1978 to purchase a series of light water nuclear reactors.
As reported by Haaretz.com an Israeli new site, Iran's deputy nuclear chief said Tehran would agree to United Nations supervision of its uranium enrichment process and intrusive inspections of its atomic facilities if its case was referred back to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The offer came a day after the U.S. called a summit of foreign ministers from Germany and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in New York on May 9 to discuss a united response to Iran's nuclear program. The draft response which was introduced by Britain and France - has been criticised by Russia and China, who oppose the fact the resolution is to be legally binding and could lead to sanctions or even military action if Iran does not comply.
On the other hand Brazil, by cooperating with the IAEA and limiting its rhetoric on nuclear power to the South American region, has been able to establish the same program with no intervention from the United States. After all, Brazil, together with Colombia is the most important partner for the United States in South America. The regions radical shift to the left and the potential alliance of Evo in Bolivia, Chavez in Venezuela and Humala in Peru (leading candidate in the upcoming Peruvian election); is a nightmare scenario for the United States. Providing Brazil leeway in the development of their nuclear program would not only strengthen Brazil’s energy position in the region, but establish goodwill to approve a the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.
It is a subject of Dark Matter Politics when populist political rhethoric - in English and Persian - fuels the fires of international confrontation.