Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is often hailed as the archetypical diplomat – fluent in several languages, equally at ease in any cosmopolitan city from New York (where he obtained his doctorate at New York University) to Cairo, and decades of experience in the field of international law and diplomacy.
Unfortunately for ElBaradei, the Bush administration is seeking to oust him from his post due to the even-handed role he played during the search for nuclear weapons infrastructure in Iraq and his role in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
In both cases, ElBaradei stood firmly for relying on the evidence supplied by weapons inspectors. Under ElBaradei, the work of the IAEA has made headlines in newspapers around the world. The agency, which carries the double mandate of promoting nuclear energy while ensuring that nuclear materials intended for civilian use are not diverted to weapons purposes, was tasked with carrying out the intrusive inspections into Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Several times he reported to the United Nations Security Council that no evidence of a reconstituted nuclear weapons program in Iraq had been found. Yet several more months’ worth of inspections would have given his teams the time necessary to resolve the few remaining outstanding questions they had.
The Bush administration, seething to go to war over Iraq’s alleged weapons programs, denied the IAEA request for more time.
Since then, ElBaradei has once again favored factual, even-handed negotiations over belligerent calls to war as he sought to resolve questions about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Despite relatively successful negotiations between the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Iran, often facilitated by the IAEA, the Bush administration has remained unrelenting in its push to oust and punish Iran as a bonafide nuclear proliferator.
ElBaradei’s stubborn reliance on evidence and facts has obstructed the Bush administration’s possible drive for another war.
The U.S. has also been miffed by ElBaradei’s uncompromising stance in regard to nuclear disarmament. “We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security – and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed article last February.
This statement was a direct hit at the United States, which maintains an arsenal of more than 10,000 nuclear weapons while demonstrating a willingness to go to war with any country which seeks the same source of “security.”
Recently, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that the United States tapped ElBaradei’s telephone in order to intercept conversations he had with Iranian diplomats. The intercepts produced no evidence of nefarious conduct by ElBaradei.
The United States has called for a two-term limit for U.N. officials, although former IAEA director-general Hans Blix served four terms and Sigvard Eklund served five terms before him.
If reconfirmed in his post, ElBaradei would embark on his third term. The votes of 12 members of the 35-member Board of Governors would be required to block ElBaradei’s reconfirmation. The vote will take place in early March.