Brazil’s Security Council dance

At TPM, Steve Clemons offers some gentle words of warning to Brazil about its assertive Iran diplomacy. Brazilian president Lula da Silva is scheduled to arrive in Tehran for talks on Saturday, and the State Department is scrambling to head off a joint Brazil-Turkey compromise plan that would avoid sanctions. 

Specifically, Clemons worries that if Lula helps Iran escape international encirclement, the Obama administration may sour on Brazil’s candidacy for a permanent Security Council seat. The Obama team has said very little about Security Council expansion, and I’ve been told that a policy review is underway, so Clemons is right that a lot may be riding on Lula’s foray into nuclear diplomacy.

But it’s important to remember that in seeking a permanent Council seat, Brazil is appealing as much to the General Assembly as to the current members of the P5. The leading contenders for new permanent seats (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) have had trouble mustering support among the broader UN membership for their plan to expand the Council. And the UN Charter requires that any change in Council composition win two-thirds of the Assembly. Given that, Brazil may well calculate that resisting Western pressure on Iran–thereby winning a reputation as an independent-minded great power–will ultimately boost its chances of a permanent seat. Yes, the U.S. could always veto a Council reform plan that includes Brazil. But how likely is Washington to torpedo a plan that most of the General Assembly supports?


About David Bosco

Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. Author of Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics and Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World
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