One of the simplest and best questions that an editor asked me this week was why would Brazil want to get involved in the Middle East. I tried to answer it in this Los Angeles Times piece that is due to appear in Saturday’s paper.
It is still too early to say how things will play out in Iran. But even if the Brazilian accord does turn out to have been a false dawn, the Tehran agreement shows that Brazil can play a role in international affairs. It provides ammunition to those who think it should be given more of a hands on position in world diplomacy.
The answer to the question posed by my editor was best answered by experienced former diplomat Rubens Ricupero.
“Brazil wants to be recognized and it wants more power and that reflects the growing power of the country,” Ricupero told me. “It showed it is capable of diplomatic initiative. It was impressive. Le Monde said it was a historic day because the southern nations showed they can be autonomous.
He added: “It is a show of the polycentrism that Obama has talked about. That today you have actor who does not to be from the great powers, but from the intermediate powers, but who are nevertheless capable of taking initiatives on their own that were once reserved for the five big powers of the Security Council. You should see this initiative through that prism.”
Lula believes the United States is needlessly confrontational – he once asked why Obama didn’t just pick up the phone and talk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and he saw his deal as a victory for growing nations like his own who are tired of being told what to do. In one sense, Brazil looked at Iran and saw Brazil, as I touch on this Time story from last November.
More importantly, though, Brazil, with a large and stable economy, a host of vital commodities, and a global presence that is growing almost daily, is no longer happy to be known for its singers and soccer players – even as it gears up to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. It wants respect and is campaigning hard for a new world order and a leading role in it.
The fact that the US moved quickly to neuter the accord Brazil brokered does not alter the fact that Brazil is more and more important. The US will have to pay it more attention in the future. And it is stupid if it doesn’t. The more people involved in resolving problems, as analyst Oliver Stuenkel points out here, the more likely it is one of them will find a solution.