In a move that will do little for US-Brazilian relations but much for our understanding of the workings of the Obama administration, President Lula has released the full text of a letter from Obama sent to him prior to negotiations with Iran on the so-called “fuel-for-fuel swap”.
The letter, written on 20th April, appears to back Brazilian and Turkish efforts to reach a deal with the Islamic republic to ease tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme. The letter states that an agreement by Iran to transfer about 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country “would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s LEU stockpile”. In the letter Obama also writes, “I would urge Brazil to impress upon Iran the opportunity presented by this offer to ‘escrow’ its uranium in Turkey while the nuclear fuel is being produced.” Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan also revealed that he received a letter from Obama and although he has not revealed its contents it is safe to assume that it says much the same thing.
A month later on 17th May, Brazil, Turkey and Iran signed a joint declaration in that would commit Iran to ship about half of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium for storage in Turkey. In exchange, Iran would get a supply of higher-enriched uranium to fuel its medical research reactor. This arrangement was almost identical to a deal put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that was supported by Washington but rejected by Tehran last October. And yet, rather than welcome the deal, Washington responded with scepticism.
The following day, Hillary Clinton dismissed the Brazil-Iran-Turkey offer and announced instead a draft UN security council resolution to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran. The punitive escalation, she said, was “as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could have taken.” She argued although the deal might seem like a significant concession, Iran now has much more nuclear material since the IAEA first made the proposal last October.
Clinton, who describes the deal as a ‘ploy’, also points to Iran’s insistence that it will continue to enrich uranium…