First, it is not only the terms of the deal that matter, but the messengers and atmospherics. Washington for decades has dealt with Iran – almost always indirectly – with considerable truculence and belligerence as the background music to “negotiations.” This is business as usual – the world’s sole superpower demanding others to agree to its strategy of the moment.
When Mr. Lula and Mr. Erdogan came to Tehran, the game was entirely different. It wasn’t the content so much as the negotiators, the venue, and the atmospherics. Tehran did not feel this time that it was acceding to superpower pressure, but to a reasoned and respectful request by two significant peer states in the world with no record of imperialism in Iran. In one sense, the deal was almost bound to succeed. What Iran wants as much as anything in this world is to blunt US dominance of the international order, and especially its ability to dictate terms in the Middle East.
If Iran is to yield at all on nuclear policy, what better device than to accede to two respected and successful states that were themselves defying Washington’s wishes in even attempting negotiations? If Tehran had refused that offer, it might have torpedoed the very concept of independent alternative, non-American efforts in international strategy. It made all the sense in the world for Iran to say “yes” this time to this combination of approach.
The same goes for China and Russia. After the Lula-Erdogan success, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately proclaimed her own success at garnering Russian and Chinese support for enhanced sanctions against Iran – a stunningly insulting response to the remarkable accomplishment of Brazilian and Turkish negotiation. These states are, after all, immensely important to US regional and global interests. To blow them off like that was a major blunder, not just in terms of Iran, but in broader global strategy. The rest of the world has surely taken further negative note that Washington’s game remains depressingly familiar.