Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

On the fourth leg of her Latin American trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Brazil’s President Lula da Silva   He presides over a Brazil that is rising in confidence, economic power, and global influence but myopic in its treatment of Iran.

The Secretary will have to make a strong pitch to convince President Lula da Silva to be wary of the budding Iran-Brazil connection which might produce sanctions-evading financial ties and cooperation to develop Iran’s nuclear potential.   The Secretary’s message is: “with influence comes responsibility.”

Thus far the Brazilian stance on Iran has not been helpful.  Brazil’s foreign minister Celso Anorim recently announced he doesn’t believe sanctions will be effective.  Lula apparently sees sanctions as a path to military force and ardently believes his country’s transition to democracy and its peaceful nuclear program in threat-free South America will carry weight with insecure zealots in volatile Iran.

Brazil’s diplomatic stance on Iran reflects classic Latin American traits: non-intervention, endless dialogue, misplaced neutrality, and a deep distrust of American leadership.

Unquestionably a democrat at home, Lula appears to loose sight of these values when dealing with Iran and other nations like Cuba and Venezuela.   Insightful critics like Foreign Policy’s editor Moises Naim ask why a man who was once jailed by Brazil’s military regime as a labor and democracy activist can as president side with the jailers and oppressors of Iran.

Although an uphill struggle, Secretary of State Clinton needs to make it clear to Lula that the volatile combination of a budding military dictatorship, theocratic repression, support for terrorism, and nuclear weapons ambitions make Iran the most imminent threat to world peace in 2010.