segunda-feira, 24 de maio de 2010

Brasil - Turquia

Doug Saunders

What happened on Monday in Tehran was so new, so alien to the categories we use to divide the world into easily digestible fragments, that there was bound to be some confusion and misunderstanding.

After all, how were we to interpret the news that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spent 18 hours sitting down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and had struck a deal with him, a deal that involved Iran handing some of its uranium to Turkey in exchange for refined reactor fuel?

Brazil and Turkey managed to accomplish Monday exactly what the United States and its allies had tried and failed to do last October, a swap of potential weapon-making uranium for safer reactor-fuel stuff – in fact, they had struck a deal on even better terms, assuming (and it is a large assumption) that Iran actually carried out its end. But doing it involved sidestepping the U.S.-led sanctions negotiations, entering friendly negotiations on good-faith terms in the midst of a hostile confrontation with a country the major powers fear.

Friday, the Brazilian-Turkish deal seemed to have been snubbed by these powers when the United States persuaded the United Nations Security Council, including China and Russia, to impose another round of symbolically loaded, but not very punishing, sanctions on Iran. There were angry noises from Ankara and Brasilia.

How you interpreted this deal depended on how you see the thick lines that divide the nations of the world.

Every generation or so, we split the world into neat packages, bundles of nations and blocs of power. That happened on March 5, 1946, when Winston Churchill made his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Miss., turning an emerging ideological divergence into a physical barrier. It happened with equally lasting effect six years later when French demographer Alfred Sauvy coined the term “Third World” to draw a line between a disparate group of very poor, very angry countries and the rest of the world.

Both lines have dissolved during this century, as the totalizing ideologies of the Cold War and the wealth divisions of the previous century have melted away. We are still sketching out the new boundaries, trying to redraw the map. Yes, there are still very poor countries, and there are alarming authoritarian countries. But what do you make of Brazil and Turkey, which are neither?

In the wake of Monday’s news, some saw the emergence of a “rogue bloc” of countries that work together in opposition to the United States, Europe, Israel and their allies. After all, Russia sells arms to Hugo Chavez’s alarming Venezuelan regime and to Iran. Iran makes trips to Cuba and Venezuela. China and Russia seem to help Iran defy sanctions.

In this reading, Monday’s deal was the sealing of a pact between these nations, expanding it to Brazil – which often has kind things to say about Venezuela and Cuba – and Turkey – which has been making overtures to Syria in an effort to build its influence in the Muslim world. The citizens of both countries are reflexively anti-American.

If you see the world that way, then a new world was created Monday, one of betrayal and danger. Right-wing American columnist Ralph Peters called it a “merging constellation of alliances that will mean a lot more trouble.”

This was not just the view of cold warriors. Monday, British Labour Party MP Denis MacShane wrote an open letter to Lula: “I open my pages with the most profound sadness and see you embracing the incarnation of everything that denies human rights, social justice and all that liberation trade union movements stood for.”

But to view the world this way is to ignore a far more important dimension. While some commentators described this as an act of rogue diplomacy by a headstrong Lula and Erdogan, officials from the U.S. State Department told reporters in briefings that, in fact, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had encouraged Turkey and Brazil to negotiate the deal. And, quietly, Turkish officials say that the new sanctions don’t actually contradict their deal; in fact, the bad-cop sanctions might help it happen quicker.

Brazil and Turkey became this week what Canada has long tried to be: successful middle powers. Ottawa has never really achieved this status, except maybe for a few years in the 1960s, because Canada has never really managed to be in the middle – less so today than ever. What we saw Monday was a genuine middle.

It’s a perilous place: If Iran fails to live up to the deal during the next 30 days, then those countries will look weak and unfriendly. But if they succeed, they will have changed the rules permanently, delivered peace from the midst of an impassable divide and given the map of the world a new, bold line.

Publicado no jornal canadense The Globe and Mail em 24 de maio de 2010.

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