IAEA Dodging Iranian Responsibility — Again

by on April 7th, 2004

The Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, reported yesterday that International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei wishes that the United States and Iran would just start talking directly.

“Although I carry no message from President (George W.) Bush for Iran, I personally wish the Iranians and US officials would get engaged in direct talks soon,” said ElBaradei in response to aquestion about whether he carried any message from US President Bush for Iran.

While direct talks between the U.S. and Iran may seem on the surface to be a laudable objective, this aim ignores two points: (1) the U.S. is the primary engine of criticism of the Iranian regime at present because Europe has chosen to let America take the flack while they reap the financial rewards; and (2) the IAEA’s raison d’etre is to mediate and independently investigate precisely this type of situation and the IAEA has spent a lot of time of late looking for ways to duck the question.

European diplomats and the UN’s IAEA are confronting a difficult moment: they are beginning to realize that the claims made by the United States for years — namely that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program — are, more than likely, demonstrably factual. This clearly undercuts the European position that American claims, policy and general political direction should be avoided at all costs, especially as regards the Middle East.

ElBaradei has consistently downplayed Iran’s repeated and flagrant transgressions of IAEA-mandated monitoring regimes and, when forced to condemn Tehran, has done so in the most silky and non-threatening way possible. Beyond mere diplomacy, ElBaradei is leading the IAEA in the direction of outright and total appeasement of the clerical regime in Iran.

Though ElBaradei has held the tide back up to this point, he will not be able much longer to resist pressure from a growing number of UN member states to bring the matter before the Security Council for a vote, and rightly so. The Security Council is the proper body in which to invoke sanctions and a censure of Iran for its bellicose pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. This time, ElBaradei is afraid that it will be the IAEA in front of the security council with charts and graphs instead of Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Eventually Iran will, as it has done so many times before, push the line too hard and force even the IAEA or the UN as a whole to impose sanctions. The question is: will this happen before or after Tehran acquires full nuclear weapons capability?

Marc C. Johnson