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Cablegate: Iranian Diplomacy Moves Into High Gear, Part 2

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 000526

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/16/2038
TAGS: PREL PTER EFIN BR VE EC CO BL IR XR CH UN
SUBJECT: IRANIAN DIPLOMACY MOVES INTO HIGH GEAR, PART 2

REF: A. BRASILIA 420
B. 07 BRASILIA 2132

BRASILIA 00000526 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel, reasons 1.4 B and D.

1. (S) Summary: Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheikh-Attar visited Brasilia in mid-March to press Brazil to join an anti-American bloc in South America composed of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad continues to try to arrange an official visit to Brazil, according to Senator Heraclito Fortes (strictly protect), chairman of the Foreign Relations and National Defense Committee. Fortes said the Iranian diplomat complained about UN pressure on Iran's nuclear program, and said that after the Olympics, China would deliberately exert pressure on the U.S. dollar by selling off investments in the U.S. suddenly or gradually. This cable provides additional information on Sheikh-Attar's activities reported in ref A. Fortes is one of a handful of Brazilian legislators with serious concerns about Iranian overtures in the region, which he sees as an effort to exploit Latin America's vulnerabilities to advance Iranian interests by undermining the U.S. in the region. End Summary.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Iran Chafing Under UN Pressure - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (S) Senator Heraclito Fortes (Democrat, opposition; of Piaui), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations and National Defense Committee, briefed the Ambassador on March 28 on his meeting in mid-March with Ali Reza Sheikh-Attar, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran. Fortes recalled our previous conversations with him on Iranian activities in the region (ref B) and said that recent events have borne out his conviction that Iran is behind certain problems in Latin America. He said Sheikh-Attar comes to Brazil occasionally and always follows the same itinerary: Brasilia, La Paz, Quito, Caracas, and Tehran, and "the conversation is always the same": he complains about UN pressures on Iran over uranium enrichment, centrifuges, UN inspections, and so forth.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Iran Urges Formation of Anti-American Bloc - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (S) The Iranian diplomat was lobbying Brazil to join an anti-America bloc, Fortes said, which in his view already includes Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Sheikh-Attar told Fortes he was also talking with Argentina about the bloc, although Fortes did not know whether Sheikh-Attar had gone to Argentina on this latest trip to Latin America. Fortes noted that Sheikh-Attar also said, "Brazil will lose if it doesn't participate." Sheikh-Attar also complained that Brazil has not yet received an official visit by Iranian President Ahmed Ahmadinejad, Fortes noted.

4. (S) In Fortes's view, it is difficult to put together an anti-American bloc in South America, but if Iran were successful, such a bloc could cause trouble after the Beijing Olympics. He said categorically, "There is zero chance that Brazil will participate" in such a bloc, although there are a small number in the government such as presidential foreign policy adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia who are favorable. Fortes said Sheikh-Attar also met with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Relations (ref A), and did not know whether he had seen President Lula.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Iranian Meddling in Latin America - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (S) Citing the recent conflict between Ecuador and

BRASILIA 00000526 002.2 OF 002

Colombia as an example, Chairman Fortes noted again (ref B) that Iran is trying to cause unrest in Latin America. He said Iran may have played a role because his previous contacts with Iranian officials have led him to the conclusion that Iran intends to transfer conflict from the Middle East to Latin America. He also pointed to technology transfers to Venezuela (NFI), the discovery earlier in March 2008 of depleted uranium in a FARC safehouse, and the "handling of arms" (NFI) in the region as actions in which Iran may have been involved, adding that this is all hard to prove. Chairman Fortes also said that while Iran has used Venezuela to open doors in Latin America, it is starting to "find its own channels" and will not need Venezuela any more.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Iranian Diplomat: China Will Move Against the Dollar - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (S) Chairman Fortes reported that Sheikh-Attar told him the world financial order had flipped from what it was 30 years ago, and now countries such as China and Japan were able to make investments that were unthinkable in the past, and suggested that Brazil's economic and security relationships ought to depart from Brazil's traditional alignment with the U.S. and Europe. Sheikh-Attar also predicted that after the Olympics, China would "start making moves" to cause a collapse in the value of the dollar by selling off dollars and investments in the U.S. either suddenly or gradually. The Iranian told Chairman Fortes that the Chinese actions would "be more powerful than an atomic bomb." In reference to this and the other statements by the Iranian diplomat, Fortes said, "I just look at him and think he is a fool." Asked whether he thought the Iranian knew this information about China or was speculating, Fortes said he could not evaluate that and surmised that "China and Iran must be talking to some extent."

7. (S) Comment: Chairman Fortes is one of a handful of Brazilian legislators with serious concerns about Iranian overtures in the region, which he sees as an effort to exploit Latin America's vulnerabilities to advance Iranian interests by undermining the U.S. in the region. As Fortes previously said (ref B), there are many dots to connect that reveal a pattern of destabilizing efforts by Iran. The statements by the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, and the Deputy Petroleum Minister before him (ref B), reveal the broad outlines of Iran's plan to foster hostility toward the U.S. and reorient the region, working through Chavez, Correa, and Morales. While the Brazilian Foreign Ministry seeks a "correct" relationship with Iran (ref A), the Congress has little power to influence the policy except by stalling ambassadorial appointments and appealing to public opinion, neither of which Senator Fortes has yet done. A significant development such as a visit by Ahmedi-Nejad to Brazil could prompt him and a few others to demand explanations from the Foreign Ministry about its Iran policy.

SOBEL

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