The Middle East Channel

Lula's crazy Iranian ego play

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva heads to Tehran this week, a sort of victory lap for what he hopes will be a monumental piece of foreign policy: bringing Iran's leadership to the nuclear negotiating table. Last week, Tehran agreed "in principle" to Brazil and Turkey's offer to facilitate talks on an agreement proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last October. Should that initiative succeed, it will surely be remembered as Lula's crowning achievement.

But many are beginning to wonder if Lula can truly be the darling of the West while also wooing the East. Lula's administration has pitched the talks to Iran not as a way to come clean but as a way to prove that it is hiding nothing with its peaceful nuclear program -- and the United States and Europe are understandably skeptical. Back home, questions have arisen about the Brazilian leader's motivation for injecting himself and his country in such a daring initiative in the first place. It's certainly not about domestic politics; if anything, cozying up to Iran is losing Lula points at home.

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The Middle East Channel

Holding Obama to his word

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell's recent return to the Middle East marks the tentative resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process through "proximity talks," as U.S. diplomats will shuttle between the two sides in the hopes of establishing the groundwork for direct negotiations. Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, however, is not sitting on his hands waiting for the United States to fix everything: "We expect that, if the Palestinian Authority took the guide from Obama on the issue of settlements, we expect that the American administration would say to Israel: Enough is enough," he says about the U.S. president.

A longtime campaigner for Palestinian rights whose activism has focused on nonviolent resistance, Barghouti ran in the 2005 Palestinian presidential election, finishing second to Mahmoud Abbas; won a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council in the 2006 election; and served as minister of information for the Palestinian unity government in 2007. In Washington to meet with U.S. officials prior to the beginning of proximity talks, he sat down with Foreign Policy to discuss the threat posed by Israeli settlement growth, how the Palestinian Authority has lost its way, and why U.S. President Barack Obama is responsible for the poor results of peace talks. 

Read Foreign Policy's interview with Mustafa Barghouti.