Lula on fights with Hillary, talks with Ahmadinejad, Obama ‘good but nervous and too young’
As we advanced past the first hour of a historic interview – see here and here – at a Federal Police building in Curitiba, southern Brazil, where Lula has been incarcerated for over 500 days as part of the lawfare endgame in a complex coup, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was on a roll.
“Let me tell you about Iran.”
He felt relaxed enough to start telling stories of political negotiation at the highest level. He had already set the context. Nuggets abounded – especially focusing on the sometimes rocky relationship between Brasilia and Washington. Here are only three examples:
1) On the overall relationship with the US: “People think that I’m angry at the Americans. On the contrary, we had a very healthy political relationship with the US, and that should be the case for Brazil. But to be subservient, never.”
Fights with Hillary
2) On dealing with George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: “Bush accepted ideas with more fluidity than Obama. Obama was much tougher with Brazil. I’m certain that Hillary Clinton does not like Latin America, and she didn’t like Brazil. I had two big fights with her, one in a meeting in Trinidad-Tobago and another in Copenhagen [at the climate conference COP-15]. She arrived late, bossing everyone around. I said, ‘Lady, hang on. Wait for your turn. I’ve been here for three days.’ The petulance and arrogance of the Americans disturbs me, even if I think that the United States is always an important nation, and we should always maintain a good relationship.”
3) On hybrid war: “We tried to organize intelligence in the Air Force, the Navy, along with Federal Police intel, but among them there were some pretty serious fights. Whoever has intel has power, so no one wants to relay information to the competitor…. I imagined that after it was clear [from Edward Snowden’s revelations about National Security Agency surveillance] that … the United States was investigating Brazil … I imagined we would have a tougher position, maybe talking to the Russians and the Chinese, to create another system of protection. Our main political gesture was Dilma [Rousseff, then the Brazilian president] traveling to the US, but Obama, it seems to me, had very little influence.
Obama ‘too young’
“It was fantastic, Obama’s capacity to deliver beautiful speeches, but the next day nothing happened, nothing, nothing. I think the United States was too big for Obama, he was too young, too inexperienced. And you know that the US State Department is very powerful…. I think Obama was a good man. When I went to visit him the first time … I left with a lingering doubt: there was no one remotely similar to him in the meeting. I said to myself, ‘This guy has no one matching him here.’ And in our conversation, I said, ‘Obama, you may be the President of the United States who has the greatest possibility to effect change in this country. Because you only need to have the audacity that black people had to vote for you. The people have already granted you the audacity. Make the best of it.’… But then, nothing much happened.”
And that would set the scene for the inside story of the first Iran nuclear deal, clinched in Tehran in 2010 by Iran, Brazil and Turkey, and centered on a nuclear fuel swap, years before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached in Vienna in 2015 by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
History will register that as Donald Trump smashed the JCPOA, Hillary Clinton scotched the original deal less than 24 hours after it was clinched, calling instead for a new round of sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council.
This is how I reported it for Asia Times. Lula, in early 2010, had already told Hillary in person it was not “prudent to push Iran against the wall.”
So what really happened in Tehran?
Meeting Khamenei, Ahmadinejad
“I was in New York. And [then Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad didn’t like me. He showed respect, but his preferential relationship here in the continent was with [Bolivian President] Evo Morales and my friend [Venezuela’s Hugo] Chavez… Then one day in New York, I decided to talk to Ahmadinejad, because he had said it was a lie that six million Jews had died. And then I said, ‘Look, Ahmadinejad, I came here because I wanted to know if it’s true that you said that the Jews want to be heroes because they died in the war. I wanna tell you something: The Jews did not die in the war. The Jews were victims of a genocide. They were not soldiers fighting. They were free men, women and children who were taken to concentration camps and killed, that’s different.’
Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.”