NEW DELHI – Mao Zedong once famously called for the Chinese to “let a hundred flowers bloom.” Soon, however, he was recoiling from what he saw as a chaos of competing ideas. Today, the world seems to be entering a period when, if not a hundred, at least a dozen varieties of Weltpolitik are being pursued by great and emerging powers alike. Reconciling these competing strategic visions of the world, in particular of global crisis, will make international diplomacy more complicated than ever.
The intervention by Turkey and Brazil into the globally divisive issue of Iran’s nuclear program is but the latest, and also the clearest, sign of this new element in global affairs. In May, the Iranian, Turkish, and Brazilian leaders met in Tehran to conclude an agreement that would supposedly have Iran deposit 1,200 kilograms of lightly enriched uranium (LEU) in Turkey, which, in exchange, would send 120 kilograms of enriched fuel to be used in Iran’s research reactor.
Russia proposed this kind of swap earlier, but Iran declined the offer, and the version agreed with Brazil and Turkey was likewise intended to forestall Iran’s ability to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used for nuclear warheads. But its other intention was probably to stymie American efforts to adopt new United Nations sanctions on Iran.
It is too soon to tell if Iran’s desire to obtain nuclear weapons has been delayed. The International Atomic Energy Agency has not ruled against the agreement, and I am informed that the Brazilian/Turkish brokered deal does not violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran, as a signatory, is obliged to adhere. Nevertheless, the effort to preempt American strategy clearly failed, as new UN sanctions were implemented earlier this month.