Clinton’s Visit, Iran, and Nuclear Weapons in Brazil

Unlike Argentina, Brazil fought with the Allies in Europe in World War II. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”) played a leading role in the return to democratic rule of Brazil after more than 20 years of military rule (1964-1985), which included years of brutal military repression, particularly after 1969.

Under that military rule, Brazil’s National Security Doctrine raised the possibility that Brazil would develop nuclear weapons and that Brazil and Argentina would enter into a nuclear arms race. Brazil opposed the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as discriminatory, but finally joined the nuclear non-proliferation regime in 1994, when it ratified the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco). Latin America is now a nuclear-free zone.

In 1998
, Brazil ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The development of nuclear weapons is also prohibited by the 1988 Constitution.

Nonetheless, Brazil has a significant enrichment capability, uranium reserves, and missile technology.

There have been suggestiions that there are those in the military (which controls the nuclear program), and even the government, including the vice-president, who have not abandoned the idea of eventually developing a nuclear weapons capability. An analysis of the history of the Brazilian nuclear program indeed suggests that developments in that country should be closely monitored.

Reports of a possible nuclear cooperation agreement between Iran and Brazil have raised concerns. The governing board of the Brazilian Society of Physics has expressed its opposition to such an accord. However, because Brazil has been entering into nuclear cooperation agreements with a number of countries, what would be important would be the details, both published and private, of any agreement that might be signed.

Of course, on another level, the question of timing could be of critical importance to the United States, Europe and other countries, as the Security Council considers the adoption of additional sanctions against Iran.

Also, the fact that Iran signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Venezuela in September, 2009 is an additional factor countries concerned with proliferation will take into account.

Some have speculated that one of Brazil’s concerns over the imposition of further sanctions on Iran could be that international limitations on Iran’s enrichment programs could constitute a precedent for imposing similar restrictions on Brazil in the future.

At the same time, one must acknowledge that Lula’s opposition to additional sanctions may be due to a genuine belief that such action would be counter-productive at this time, and that he and Brazil might be able to mediate successfully and persuade the Iranians to reach agreement with the United States, France, Britain, Russia and the IAEA on the nuclear issues in dispute.

The Trenchant Observer

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