Mohamed El-Baradei was chosen to serve as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after winning 33 out of 34 votes in a secret ballot. Despite the fact that most of IAEA’s conflicts are attributable to Middle Eastern countries, notably Iran and Pakistan, no one objected to the appointment of an Arab Muslim. As a former jurist and politician in the Egyptian Foreign ministry with extensive experience with the IAEA, we do not doubt his competence. However, his appointment was politically motivated as a means of reassuring parties who doubted the IAEA’s intentions.
The consensus after the past two IAEA sessions was that El-Baradei performed well in his new position. He adopted a stand neither against nor defending Iran. He focused on addressing technical differences free from political wrangling.
El-Baradei also declared that he would resign if Iran was attacked. With an attack appearing more likely, he feared that his job would become meaningless if the military took over the nuclear file, particularly because he has only one year till the end of his term as IAEA director. El-Baradei was not prepared to besmirch his reputation and his Nobel Peace Prize to serve as a cover for a possible military action. In such an event, he would be blamed by both parties.
In the past, El-Baradei has publicly doubted Iran’s intentions and spoken of its deception of the IAEA. Recently, he said that he regretted IAEA’s failure to uncover secrets of Iran’s nuclear program. He repeatedly demanded that the Iranians demonstrate transparency, warning that Iran might be concealing key information about its military activities. However, it is natural for El-Baradei to protest the use of force against Iran because force is against IAEA protocol, which relies on inspection and a permanent monitoring program.
Western nations are now testing the carrot and stick approach, offering Iran new and significant incentives, including economic aid and partial financing of a peaceful nuclear program in return for the cease of uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, Israel has conducted military maneuvers, simulating bombardment of similar targets. Israel also declared that it is prepared to strike Iran’s nuclear plant if Iran continues developing nuclear weapons.
El-Baradei is witnessing the final moments of the US-Iranian match; so are we, but with mixed feelings. Iran is developing nuclear weapons to target us, rather than Israel; if not by actual use, at least for bargaining purposes. Meanwhile, Israel has the capability of obliterating Iran off the map with the same weapons. We do not want a new war, which would be paid for with civilian lives on many fronts. Preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons is clearly a matter of life and death for Israel. Europe supports Israel on this stand and sees itself as a target of Iran’s long-range missiles.
The US believes Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons would endanger the Gulf oilfields. The Gulf Arabs also want to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon development because they are convinced that they would be targeted before Israel.