Portugal played an extraordinary part in the historic Iran nuclear deal forged by the US.
Not only was a “son of Portugal” – Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz – pivotal in the deal, its signing was toasted in Portuguese wine, a tradition that goes back to the American War of Independence.
The not-so-known facts came out in an interview on America’s Daily Show and are being featured in Público today (Thursday).
Moniz, whose grandparents came from S. Miguel Island in the Azores, was one of the “key responsible parts” of the groundbreaking deal, host Jon Stewart told his audience.
“You were in the room when Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated this deal…”
Moniz, who said his responsibility was “to get all the technical stuff right”, weathered the rest of the interview in good humour and simply chuckled when Stewart recounted that Iranians had “huge stores of nuclear bombs that we didn’t know about and have signed off on a deal that they intend to break almost as soon as they have signed it”.
Público carries the interview but does not allude to its content.
It does, however, make much of the toasting of the deal with Madeiran wine.
This is apparently a tradition that goes back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Moniz was given the wine by the US ambassador to Portugal Robert Sherman when he passed through Lisbon on his way to Vienna to seal the deal with Iranian delegations and the 5+1 group (made up of the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany), reports Público.
Sherman is understood to have told Moniz only to open the bottle when he and Kerry had clinched agreement – and this is precisely what happened.
Moniz, described as the “new knight” Sir Ernie of Fall River – a town in Massachusetts favoured by Portuguese immigrants – “opened the bottle and toasted with Kerry and three other fundamental negotiators”.
Meantime, Sir Ernie is getting a lot of attention – not just for “getting the technical stuff right” but because of his extraordinary hair.
Described as the “most Washington hair in Washington”, there is a photo doing the rounds on Twitter comparing Moniz’s coiffure to that of the country’s first president.
As the Washington Post affirms, the physicist from a relative Cabinet backwater has suddenly found himself to be “one of the most in-demand Obama Cabinet secretaries”.
A Republican congressional staffer told the paper: “He is not a policy wonk.”
He is “someone who can take complex issues and make the lay person understand them”.
Portugal has shown its pride in Moniz’s glittering career by decorating him last Friday with the Grand-Cross of the Order of Infante D. Henrique (see video, where Moniz speaks in English – http://www.presidencia.pt/?idc=37&idi=95256).