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December 14, 2004

Spying on the IAEA

Yesterday's Washington Post informed us that the United States has been tapping the phones of Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei:

The Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of Mohamed ElBaradei's phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to three U.S. government officials.
And what bad things might the good Mr. have done to warrant such treatment?

"Some people think he sounds way too soft on the Iranians, but that's about it," said one official with access to the intercepts.

After all, he is "well-respected inside the United Nations", so that should settle it, right? Wrong.

This is the same Mohamed ElBaradei who leaked the story about the 377 tons of missing explosives in Iraq just before the presidential election, in what seemed to many of us a blatant attempt to influence the outcome.

ElBaradei was never happy with the idea of US invasion, insisting in January of 2003 that Iraq should get "one more chance," that "we had not exhausted the peace process yet." But of course one can never "exhaust" a process. There are those who opposed the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq by saying that war should be a last resort. Well yes, but what defines "last"? One can always try something else, or something once more.

While his work to end the proliferation of nuclear-weapons technology is laudable, he is of the moral-equivalence school:

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.
Uh, no. Just as there is a difference between a gun in the hands of a criminal and a gun in the hands of a policeman, there is a difference between nuclear weapons in the hands of mullahs and nuclear weapons in the hands of the United States. There is also a difference between Israeli nuclear weapons and Iranian ones. But he wants Israel to give up theirs also.

Always one to have faith in internationals processes and inspections, he is "optimistic" about an agreement with Iran on it's nuclear program. And he will no doubt remain optimistic up to the very day they explode their first bomb. At that point he will say that he is "disappointed."

The reason why we should oppose his nomination to another term is that he has been a failure. Ever since he was appointed to his job in 1997, we have seen

  • India and Pakistan test their bombs
  • The A. Q. Khan network sell their Pakistani nuclear technology to heavens knows how many buyers
  • North Korea has probably built 1 to 4 bombs
  • The Iranians inch ever closer to obtaining a bomb
  • Libya has renounced their nuclear program and allowed full access by inspectors
Oh wait, that last one was the result of scaring Ghadaffi silly by invading Iraq.

To be sure, not all of this can be pinned on Mr ElBaradei. Not all of these developments are exclusively his fault. But he is part of a system that is such a failure that they are bound to happen. And rather than reassess the mantra of "inspections", "international law", or heaven forbid, the holy United Nations, he wants to keep going merrily along in the same direction.

However, it does point up to the failure of the current international system of endless inspections and Security Council debate. It may have worked, sort of anyway, during the Cold War when both the Soviet Union and United States had a mutual interest in preventing proliferation. Between the two of us, our influence was substantial enough to prevent our respective "client states" from acquiring the bomb. With the end of the bipolar world, nations are much more on their own.

Technical development has also proceded to the point where the bomb is now within reach of any nation that is serious about obtaining one. All that it takes is time and determination.

As readers of this blog can guess, all of this points to the need for a new "new world order". As I've said many times before, the UN system is outdated and hopelessly broken. New institutions must be developed, and will be the subject of future posts.

For another take on Mr ElBaradei, check out this MSNBC editorial. Fareed Zakaria points out that ElBaradei was more correct on whether Iraq had an active nuclear program in 2003 than our CIA said it did.

Posted by Tom at December 14, 2004 11:00 AM

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