Iran Affairs
Brazil's Lula in Iran
Sat May 15, 2010 00:59

Brazil's Lula in Iran
by Cyrus Safdari (source: Iran Affairs)
Friday, May 14, 2010

With the up-coming trip by Brazilian president Lula to Iran I thought a comparison between Brazil's nuclear program with Iran would be interesting.

In 2002, presidential candidate and current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sparked grave concerns over Brazil's nuclear intentions when he declared that the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was unfair:

"If someone asks me to disarm and keep a slingshot while he comes at me with a canon, what good does that do?" he asked during his campaign. His provocative attitude was shared by many Brazilians who find the NPT discriminatory, as well as an infringement on sovereignty. One retired Brazilian general has even publicly espoused making nuclear arms.

Brazil pursued a covert nuclear weapons program under a military government in the 1980s. In 1984, Brazilians elected Tancredo Neves to become their first civilian president in two decades. Although Neves died before assuming the highest office, his successor, Jose Sarney, immediately took the decision to dismantle the military nuclear program and revealed that the previous military dictatorship had gone as far as preparing a nuclear weapon test site.

Brazil's 1988 Constitution states in Article 21 that "all nuclear activity within the national territory shall only be admitted for peaceful purposes and subject to approval by the National Congress."

On May 20, 1980, Brazil and Argentina signed an Agreement on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, ending potential rivalry between the two nations in the nuclear arena. Brazil and Argentina also signed several agreements that to allow joint monitoring of their nuclear programs to ensure that they are not used for military purposes by creating the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC). Based in Rio de Janeiro, the ABACC provides on-site inspections of nuclear facilities in Argentina and Brazil and maintains an inventory of nuclear material in each country. (nuclear propulsion systems for submarines are allowed, however.)

Brazil, Argentina and Chile ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which creates a nuclear-weapons free zone in Latin American, in 1994. All 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are now members.

Brazil's pilot enrichment facility at Resende Unit 1 was completed in 1985 with a total investment of approximately $17 million.

In May 2007 Brazil launched a full-scale uranium enrichment facility in Resende, some 145 kilometers outside of Rio de Janeiro. Once commissioned the facility will produce 60 percent of the fuel needed for Angra I and Angra II, the country's largest power plants. These two nuclear reactors produce 40 percent of the energy used in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has refused to sign the Additional Protocol which would allow the IAEA inspectors to gain greater access and information the a country's nuclear program, and therefor the IAEA cannot legally verfify that all of Brazi's nuclear programs are under safeguards, and that their program is exclusively intended for peaceful purposes. Jose Dirceu, Lula's former chief of staff stated during a recent interview with United Press International that even if Brazil ever agrees to the Additional Protocol, "the necessity of strengthening the System of Safeguards of the AIEA should not be used as a justification for further aggravation of the already existing imbalance between the obligations for disarmament vs. those for nonproliferation envisioned by the NPT."

Brazil's position on the Additional Protocol corresponds to Egypt's as well as many other signatories to the Non-Prolifereation Treaty. The International Herald Tribune reported in Dec 2007:

"[Egypitian] Deputy Foreign Ministry Ramzy Ezzedine Ramzy reiterated Egypt's stance that it had no intention of signing the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Association giving greater access to information and inspections, in a speech Tuesday.

"Egypt will not sign the Additional Protocol, since it's a voluntary thing," he said at a meeting of the
Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs where he delivered a speech by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul
Gheit...Ramzy warned that some countries were trying to make the Additional Protocol a condition of receiving nuclear technology, despite it being voluntary...

"In reality, the nonproliferation treaty doesn't prohibit nuclear activities including enrichment as
long as these activities remain peaceful and under the supervision of the agency," Ramzy said."

And according to an article in LA Times:

"Some developing nations are skeptical of the intentions of the five original nuclear states and are
reluctant to give up the option of enriching uranium. Developing nations say they donít want to give up their rights to uranium enrichment and donít trust the United States or other nuclear countries to be consistent suppliers of the nuclear material they would need to run their power plants."

The United States, however, continues to insist on trying to create a new division between enrichment-haves (suppliers) and not-haves (customers) quite explicitly. President Bush demanded that:

"The 40 nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group should refuse to sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants."

According to a 2004 analysis by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies,

"Many NPT state parties, particularly those from the Non-Aligned Movement(NAM), have already stated their opposition to President Bushís proposals to restrict enrichment. In their view, precluding states from developing enrichment and reprocessing capabilities contradicts an important tenet of the NPT-that is, the deal made by the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Article IV of the NPT states that NNWS have the inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a right intended to provide an incentive for NNWS to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Bush proposals, however, introduce another element into the nonproliferation regime by segmenting countries into those that can engage in enrichment and reprocessing and those that cannot. Since most states with fuel cycle capabilities are from the developed world, it is clear that the target group of the proposal is the developing world."

Even though Brazil's enrichment plant at Resende was not yet really functional, the Bush
administration reportedly assured the Brazilians that they would be classified as "enrichment-haves" under this new proposed scheme to divide the world into enrichment-haves and not-haves.

In 2004, Brazil blocked IAEA inspectors from seeing the centrifuges that operate in the Resende facility, claiming that the designs of centrifuges constituted strategic intellectual property of Brazil that could not be compromised by exposure. IAEA inspectors were not satisfied with the arrangement and have since sought to modify it.

The source of Brazi's centrifuge technology is not clear. Reportedly, according to Henry Sokolski, head of the Washington-based Non-proliferation Policy Education Center, IAEA officials believe that "the source of the Brazilian centrifuge technology" was the Pakistani "rogue" scientist Abdul-Qader Khan.

Nor do economics alone justify an independent Brazilian enrichment capability. The same "lack of commercial justification" argument applied to Iran to suggest that Iran must be seeking nukes also applies to Brazil: Brazil only has two operating power reactors, both of which are powered by existing long-term fuel arrangements from external suppliers. Furthermore the Brazilian enrichment plant program is unlikely to be competitive with larger international suppliers such as Urenco. It is often argued that Iran's enrichment program is either too small or too big for a genuine energy program and must therefore be intended for nukes, but Brazilian the enrichment facility in Resende is not necessary to power those plants, and will likely produce more low-enriched uranium than Brazil consumes by 2015.

There is speculation amongst arms control experts that Bazils nuclear program could be used to make weapons. Speaking on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," long-time arms control advocate Joe Cirincione said, "If we let Iran and Brazil get these technologies, many more countries might want it. And then you have a world where many more counties are on the very brink of nuclear weapons capability. That is too risky a situation to be able to tolerate. We've got to stop it here, we've got to stop it now."

Cirincione, the director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, claims "once you have a large functioning enrichment capability, it's just a matter of retooling it to turn it into a nuclear bomb factory."

Considering Brazil's nuclear-weapons program in the past along with the fact that Brazil (and Egypt) flatly refuse to sign the Additonal Protocol (where as Iran has signed it, implemented it for more than 2 years without ratification, offered to ratify and permanently implement it, and has on occasion allowed inspections that exceed the Additional Protocol) a stronger case exists that Brazil "could be" seeking the "option" to build nukes at some indefinite point in the future, as Iran is accused. Iran has also called for the creation of nuclear-weapons free zone in the Mideast since the mid-1960s, though efforts to reach that goal have been stymied by Israel and the US. Iran has been subject to far greater scrutiny by the IAEA inspectors, and rather than hiding its centrifuges Iran openly displays them on national TV. Iran has also offered to implement laws and constitutional changes that would prohibit the possession of nuclear weapons.

So in short, pretty much all of the accusations levelled against Iran could be levelled with more force at Brazil, and yet Brazil is not subject to US sanctions and pressures. This proves, yet again, that nuclear weapons are not really the issue, and the standoff between Iran and the US are about something else: Israeli influence, for example, and a desire by the US to use the nuclear issue as a pretext for regime-change. If that is the case, then Lula is in for a disappointment because ultimately no amount of his intercession can resolve that particular problem.

I am sure Lula understands that what is done to Iran in this regard today, could be done to Brazil tomorrow as the world of politics is a fickle place, and so whatever assurances Brazil was provided about its future position in the enrichment have and not-have division proposed by the United States could be just as easily withdrawn. Thus, it could be argued that mindful of the assurances provided to Brazil by the United States, Lula would be eager to help the US to draw the line of enrichment capability at Iran, and so Lula is not really an independent interlocutor.

But these are only my opinions, what do I know?


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