Why Iran’s Ahmadinejad is warmly welcomed in Brazil
Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – whom US President Barack Obama called 'the most popular politician on earth' – hosted Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today. It is the first visit by an Iranian president.
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But Brazil’s Middle East policy is eclectic by American standards. When he hosted Israel's Mr. Peres, Lula discussed increased economic and defense cooperation. On the other hand, Brazil is the rare major Western power to publicly defend Iran’s development of a nuclear program – for peaceful purposes. And when speaking with Mr. Abbas in the northeastern city of Salvador last week, Lula declared that Israeli settlement expansion into the West Bank must stop immediately.Skip to next paragraph
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Were Brazil-Iran relations just economic, Farnsworth says, there would be no need for a polemical visit by the Iranian head of state – they could just swap ministers and businessmen.
Though sovereign nations can invite whomever they please, “it’s unnecessary. There’s no compelling reason why the president of Brazil has to have a visit from the president of Iran other than to say, ‘I can’,” Farnsworth says. He notes that the timing of the visit is “perfectly awful,” since it comes as other international powers are trying to ramp up pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
Even if Lula is looking for a negotiator role in the Middle East, Ahmadinejad, in a televised interview with the Brazilian media conglomerate O Globo, seemed to be hoping for more than a mediator. His responses to questions posed in English were then translated into Portuguese subtitles:
“The world needs a new economic order. Iran and Brazil have independent positions in relation to the international situation. … The two can work together to help create a new international order.“
The US has not been pleased by Ahmadinejad’s recent thrusts into its diplomatic backyard. Since Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, Iran has opened new embassies in Colombia, Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia – and added ones to Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela, according to the Washington Post.
But Ahmadinejad’s visit doesn’t come totally from the geopolitical left field.
Brazil hosts a significant Shiite Muslim population in the states of São Paulo and Paraná. While gays, Jews, Christians, and Holocaust survivors protested against his visit Sunday on Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema beach, a counter-display of support upon Ahmadinejad’s arrival made for an even rarer sight in Brazil: Women and girls in headscarves and men waving Iranian and Brazilian flags, chanting the state guest’s name. (Watch the O Globo video here.)