Brazil-U.S. Relations: Opportunities and Challenges

 In Tehran this past May, both Brazil's huge global goals and its newfound political weight were clear to see. That's when Brazilian President Lula da Silva proudly said that he and his Turkish colleague had successfully persuaded Iran to move a big part of its uranium enrichment program to another country. This was an achievement that the US and other world powers had not been able to achieve before. Washington, on the other hand, wasn't cheering. Lula's success in negotiations made Secretary of State Clinton very angry because it was seen as a threat to the fragile agreement that the US had finally reached with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to punish Iran for breaking the terms of the nuclear treaty with new, harsher sanctions. As Lula, Brazil's most popular president ever, gets close to the end of his second and final term, ties between the US and Brazil are very tense. The two countries have had many public disagreements in the last two years. Even though there is still a lot of genuine goodwill between the two countries, things may get worse soon because Brazil wants to grow and strengthen its ambitious international role, no matter who wins the election.

Leaders in the region Brazil and the US will almost certainly run into each other in this region and around the world for a few years to come

They both have a lot at stake in world politics and care a lot about the troubles that everyone is having. But their policies and plans will show how their different interests, priorities, and ways of handling foreign issues will show through. Tensions are likely to rise between them if they can't find major points of agreement or at least work to keep their differences in check. In fact, the US-Brazil relationship will have both good and bad points when it comes to most problems. The same is true for the US's relationships with other major powers around the world, such as China, Russia, Japan, and many European countries. In the past year or so, the US and Brazil have fought over a number of problems affecting both hemispheres. This is because Brazil has become more assertive in Latin America. The US and nearby Colombia were surprised and annoyed when Brazil joined almost every other South American country in opposing a new military deal that would give the US more access to Colombian military bases. After that, Brazil showed a welcome willingness to be flexible and accommodating by making peace with Colombia and announcing its own, albeit less significant, defense agreement with the United States. It also made it clear that any future US military actions in South America will need to be discussed and agreed upon by Brazil first, which is not a crazy request. In fact, Washington should be used to this by now. Brazil has been much less flexible in how it has dealt with Honduras's political problem, which was at the center of inter-American issues for most of last year. Even though they agreed at first on how to react to the military coup that removed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Brazil and the US ended up taking very different steps to solve the problem. 

The US and Brazil also have very different ideas about Cuba's place in the affairs of the hemisphere.

In this case Washington is the only country that won't end its economic and political blockade of Cuba. All of the Americas' other countries have made peace with the island again. Most people in Brazil and other Latin American countries don't understand how the US treats Cuba. The US and Brazil will definitely disagree on other issues affecting the hemisphere in the coming years, but they have also shown they can work together on issues affecting the area. Since Aristides left Haiti in 2004, the US has strongly supported Brazil's lead role in the UN peacekeeping operation there. They have also worked closely with Brazil to provide aid to people in need after the country's devastating earthquake. Washington also backs Brazil's efforts to build the so-called Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which will make South America more politically and economically integrated. This is true even though a stronger, more institutionalized UNASUR will likely limit the OAS's role and reduce US influence in matters affecting the hemisphere. In some cases, Brazil has helped to temper Hugo Chavez's anti-American campaign in Venezuela, even though the US and Brazilian governments have taken very different methods to dealing with Chavez's threat. In the near future, global issues, not regional ones, are more likely to cause problems in the relationship between the US and Brazil. This is because these issues are now more important for both countries. But at the same time, the world stage may also offer some chances to work together. Iran and the Problem of Nukes Washington is most annoyed by Brazil's close and helpful links with Iran. This has made relations between the US and Brazil unstable in recent years. And the US position has a lot of good reasons for being the way it is. 

Brazil has long supported Iran's nuclear program, saying that it is only for peaceful purposes

Even though there is a lot of evidence to the opposite that most people agree with. It hasn't paid attention to Iran's oppression at home, its continued backing for terrorist groups abroad, or its constant threats against Israel. Washington was very angry when, in May, Brazil and Turkey worked together to negotiate an agreement with Iran that stopped the US-led push for new UN sanctions against Tehran for breaking UN rules over and over again while working on nuclear weapons. Neither Brazil nor the US did a great job of handling this situation. At first, a letter from Barack Obama to Lula da Silva seemed to support the talks between Brazil, Turkey, and Iran. However, Washington later made it clear that it was strongly against the talks and would not back down from its call for harsher sanctions. But the US might have seen that the deal negotiated by Brazil and Turkey had some possible value if it wasn't so focused on keeping the big powers' agreement on the sanctions. It wouldn't have just turned it down out of hand. Iran will definitely continue to be a source of tension between the US and Brazil. This is mostly because Brazil supports Iran's efforts to refine uranium, while the US believes these are meant to make a nuclear bomb. Brazil is likely to keep fighting against sanctions against Iran, even though it has promised to follow the ones the UN has put in place. The US and Brazil could work together to find out what kind of proof is needed to say for sure that either Tehran is trying to make weapons or its goals are peaceful. It would help to ease tensions if the two countries could agree on this topic more. Over time, Brazil's nuclear program could become an even bigger problem for ties between the US and Brazil than Iran's.


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