Iranian news agencies revealed on Wednesday that the country’s Agriculture Ministry would soon sign three memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with the government of Brazil.
Under socialist presidents, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff — the former convicted of massive public funds theft and the latter impeached in 2016 — Brazil significantly expanded its trade with the rogue Islamist state, particularly in the aftermath of the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal. Following the election of current President Jair Bolsonaro, the nation’s government has attempted to shift Brazil’s public image towards friendlier relations with the United States, putting some distance between Brazil and Iran.
Despite Bolsonaro’s insistence that Brazilian foreign policy is “aligned” with America’s on Iran and repeated rejections of socialism and communism in public statements, the president, elected on a mandate to eliminate the vestiges of socialist policies from the country, has retained economic ties with the world’s most powerful communist country, China, and its allies like Iran.
According to the Tehran Times — an English-language newspaper with ties to the regime-aligned Mehr News Agency — Brazilian Ambassador to Tehran Rodrigo de Azeredo Santos agreed to sign the three memoranda in a meeting this week with a senior Agriculture Ministry official.
“The mentioned documents are going to be in the fields of plant health, animal health, and research cooperation with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa),” the newspaper reported. “It was decided in the meeting that the two sides would formally sign these documents in the two countries’ second Joint Committee Meeting that will be held in this regard.”
Outside of these descriptions, the Tehran Times did not offer any more clarity on the contents of the memoranda, though the newspaper added that “the two sides stressed that they should seek to use the capacities of the two countries to develop trade relations.”
Bolsonaro, a conservative elected on a platform of ending socialist corruption in the country and cutting dubious diplomatic ties to rogue regimes, has proven somewhat hostile to Iran in public statements. Following the imposition of new American sanctions on Iran in July 2019, Bolsonaro asserted, “you know, we are aligned with their policy, so we do what we have to do.” The policies resulted in an Iranian tanker stuck in Brazil filled with corn meant to return to the Persian Gulf.
Following the American airstrike against Iran’s top terrorist leader, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq in January, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement all but applauding his elimination from the battlefield without mentioning Soleimani or Iran.
“The Brazilian government expresses its support for the struggle against the scourge of terrorism,” the ministry said. “Brazil is following the developments in Iraq closely … and calls once again for the unity of all nations against terrorism in all its forms.”
Bolsonaro himself told reporters following the military action, “our position is to be aligned with any country in the world that fights terrorism.”
Outside of public statements, however, Bolsonaro has notably not taken certain actions that would irritate Tehran, such as designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization and moving Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which Bolsonaro promised to do.
Bolsonaro’s lack of action regarding Iran parallels his policy towards China, which he warned was “buying Brazil” as a candidate, but called indispensable to the Brazilian economy during a trip to Beijing as president in 2019. Bolsonaro has positioned himself as the leader of the right-wing, anti-communist movement in Latin America when discussing Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua — the three longstanding left-wing powers in the region — but has not similarly confronted their patron state, China.
In 2018, the last year before Bolsonaro was inaugurated, Brazil was Iran’s seventh-largest trade partner, fourth-largest importer to Iran, and the Mideast state’s most important trade partner in South America. Economic ties had reached over $2 billion in trade volume following the passage of the Iran nuclear deal, which expanded global powers’ ability to do business with the rogue state.
Following the passage of the deal — which resulted in significant profit increases for the Islamic regime — Iran invested heavily in expanding its influence to destabilize its neighbors, particularly Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Iran also expanded its already friendly relationship with the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela. International intelligence organizations and counterterrorism experts have for years warned that Iranian proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah is extremely active in Latin America, establishing ties to Marxist terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), socialist regimes like that of Venezuela and the former regime in Bolivia, and criminal drug syndicates.
Reports have linked Hezbollah to two major drug gangs in Brazil — the rival First Capital Command (PCC) and Red Command (CV) — in particular. Brazilian law enforcement officers have found themselves accidentally happening upon Hezbollah members conducting drug trafficking in the process of combating what they believed to be local drug crime.
Iran has struggled to maintain profits following sanctions passed by the Trump administration in response to the explosion of Iranian terrorist activity post-JCPOA. Trade with Brazil has been among the businesses to suffer.
“Iran was Brazil’s second-biggest buyer of corn in 2019, but in January to June its imports from the country slid to around 339,000 tonnes from 2.3 million tonnes a year ago, according to Brazilian government data,” Reuters reported in July.
Among the reasons for the dwindling Brazilian exports is a refocus under Bolsonaro towards business with Taiwan, which Brazil does not recognize as a sovereign nation but nonetheless entertains as a trade partner.
Corn imports were on the docket for conversations between the Brazilian ambassador and the Iranian Agriculture Ministry this week, the Tehran Times claimed.