The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Baradei on Iran

I linked recently the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' special report on Muhammad al-Baradei's tenure at the IAEA. I thought I'd highlight the bit in the interview [PDF] with him where they get his position on Iran:

BAS: Is Iran minimizing the risk of its nuclear program—namely by keeping it purely civilian-oriented?

ELBARADEI: We have not seen concrete evidence that Tehran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program. But somehow, many people are talking about how Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world. In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped. Yes, there’s concern about Iran’s future intentions and Iran needs to be more transparent with the IAEA and international community. We still have outstanding questions that are relevant to the nature of Tehran’s program, and we still need to verify that there aren’t un-declared activities taking place inside of the country. But the idea that we’ll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn’t supported by the facts as we have seen them so far. It’s urgent, however, to initiate a dialogue between Washington and Tehran to build trust, normalize relations, and allay concerns as proposed by President Obama. To me, that’s the only way forward.

That’s not a popular position. I’m accused by some of politiciz- ing the evidence. About Iran, I’ve been told, “Mind your own busi- ness; you’re a technician.” And yet, at other times, on other matters, I have been told that I’m the custodian of the Nuclear Non-Prolif- eration Treaty—sometimes by the very people who tell me to mind my own business when it comes to Iran. I don’t put much stock in either designation. I’m neither a custodian nor a technician; I’m merely someone who is trying to do his job. And I know the world won’t be successful in achieving nuclear disarmament unless there’s an equitable universal arms control regime in place that deals with the root causes of proliferation such as poverty, conflicts, and vio- lence. So when I tell our member states, “If you want the agency to do a good job at stemming proliferation, you have to work on the root causes,” that’s not politicization; that’s looking at the big picture and being faithful to my job.

Worth keeping in mind as as reports of a "settlement freeze for being tough on Iran" deal between the US and Israel are going around, threats of new sanctions are made and new accusations over the Iranian weapons program are traded.