Amid Pressure And Threats, Iran’s Isolation Grows With Cooled Brazil Relations

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

As the Europeans passed a de facto embargo on Iranian oil and U.S. ships defied threats (since walked back) to shut down the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz, Iran faces heightened diplomatic and economic isolation as another rift became apparent this week when an Iranian presidential adviser complained of cooling relations with Brazil. The report comes only four days after China voiced opposition to a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Brazil, a member of a bloc of emerging economies know and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), built a strong trade relationship with Iran and involved itself in Middle East diplomacy under its last president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula, as he is widely known, attempted to broker a confidence-building deal between the West and Iran to diffuse tension over the latter’s nuclear program. But the 2010 deal came just as the Obama administration had rallied international support for another round of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at the nuclear program. The U.S. objected to Iran’s condition that the sanctions — since shown to be effective in slowing Iran’s progress — be scuttled.

Now, the New York Times reports, a sometime media adviser to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed anger that Iran was also losing Brazil:

After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran took a four-country tour of Latin America this month, during which he met with several outspoken critics of the United States but was notably not invited to stop in Brazil, one of his top advisers took a public swipe at Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, saying she had “destroyed years of good relations” between the two nations.

“The Brazilian president has been striking against everything that Lula accomplished,” Ali Akbar Javanfekr, who has worked as Mr. Ahmadinejad’s top media adviser, said in an interview published Monday by Folha de São Paulo, a leading Brazilian newspaper, in which he compared Ms. Rousseff to her predecessor and political mentor.

In a New Yorker profile of Brazilian president Rousseff late last year, Nicholas Lemann wrote:

After taking office, Rousseff began to distance herself from Lula’s more exotic foreign-policy initiatives. She declared that, as someone who had been tortured, she had special concerns about a government that tortures, and that would influence Brazil’s diplomatic partnership with Iran.

Indeed, quickly after coming to office, Rousseff supported the Obama administration initiative of a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, whose eventual report condemned Iranian rights abuses.

In addition to diplomatic fallout, the Times also noted that Iran’s robust trade relations with Brazil have recently cooled.

The report about the Iranian adviser’s comments on Brazil came on the heels of a report last week that another BRICS country spoke out forcefully against suspected Iranian designs on nuclear weapons. China’s premier Wen Jiabao said that, while trade with Iran would be maintained for the meantime, China “adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons.