Might the road to convincing Iran to give up its nuclear arms program go through, of all places, Brasília? World Bank Chairman Robert Zoellick thinks so.
The idea would be for Brazil to suspend its own civilian uranium enrichment program--which it once claimed an "inalienable right" to possess--and urge other nuclear-ambitious states to follow suit.
But the veteran diplomatic hand Zoellick, a former senior State Department official, knows Washington and its allies have to make it worth Brazil's while.
To sweeten the deal, Zoellick would offer Brasília a seat on the United Nations Security Council. If Brazil were to give up its enrichment program and convince Tehran to do the same, "I think Brazil could be an ideal Security Council member."
Such an arrangement would give Brazil a seat at the table with the world's most powerful nations. China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. are the council's five permanent members, with 10 nations populating the other 10 seats on a temporary, rotating basis.
It also would bring Washington and Brasília closer at a time when the two nations already are seeking closer economic, diplomatic, and other ties.
Zoellick's trial-balloon-floating comment came at a Center for a New American Security-sponsored forum in Washington, just days before Iranian and western officials are slated to meet for a third round of talks about the Middle East nation's nuclear weapons program. Those talks are set for next week in Moscow.
Bernard Aronson, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration and the early months of the Clinton administration, says the Brazil plan "would transform the nuclear debate."
"A new Brazilian stance would take away Iran's principal argument that the advanced nuclear weapons states are pursuing a form of 'nuclear apartheid' by pulling up the enrichment 'drawbridge' before developing nations have a chance to cross," Aronson wrote in a recent op-ed column. "It would also give Iran a face-saving way to join other developing nations in a new multilateral effort to suspend enrichment rather than appearing to yield to western sanctions and threats."
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.