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ICG Risk Blog - [ The US paid much to gain little in opposing ElBaradei; it will pay more if it continues to reproach the Nobel laureate ]

The US paid much to gain little in opposing ElBaradei; it will pay more if it continues to reproach the Nobel laureate


I've some difficulty in believing that the joint award of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had no political dimension, and that the award was not a second slap (Jimmy Carter's 2002 prize being the first) at what Hans Blix described today as US "unilateralist action." I am even more sad that administration displeasure over ElBaradei's refusal to support US charges of Iraqi WMD development and a perceived too soft approach on Iran were two of many drivers for that slap. Whatever the drivers were, it is clear that as the US star set, ElBaradei's rose, especially in the Muslim world (and if you know ElBaradei's background he is decidedly not anti-American).

By early January 2005 the US had sought support among the IAEA's Board of Governors for a vote of no-confidence in ElBaradei, even though he faced no opposition for re-election to a third term. Interestingly, the US expected the support from allies including Canada and Australia "along with possible backing from former Soviet bloc nations." Within the month the US was isolated, having to failed to convince any of the 15 countries it approached, rebuffed by the UK, Canada, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Pakistan and South Africa.

The US approach that it was "motivated solely by a desire to see U.N. executives adopt a two-term limit" fell on deaf ears as "most allies… viewed the campaign as retaliation against someone who questioned U.S. intelligence on Iraq [and] Iran." The fact that the US reviewed "intercepts of ElBaradei's phone calls in hopes of finding material to use against him," "orchestrated leaks" that ElBaradei was attempting to hide an Iranian covert weapons program and an Iranian purchase of large quantities of beryllium (which acts as reflector during the early stages of a nuclear detonation) did not endear the US. I found it interesting that only states targeted by IAEA investigations (Pakistan, South Korea and Brazil) were in favor of replacing ElBaradei.

This is all the more distressing in that the US paid much to gain little, especially as:

Privately, Bush administration officials acknowledge that the IAEA's Iran investigation, now in its third year, has been thorough and that the agency has uncovered far more than U.S. intelligence could have learned without it.

I note one negative blog that dismissed the Nobel Committee outright as "some Norwegian association" and felt that naming ElBaradei in the company of "previous winners including Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa" was evidence that "Apparently You Can Get An 'A' For Effort." The blog took further pride in noting Yasser Arafat was not mentioned as a winner, as if there was an attempt to hide a bad decision. [It is worth an aside on the choice of Arafat as few saw through his brilliant self image campaign that conned many in Europe and the Middle East. One, Edward Said, was virtually exiled from Palestinian circles in 1997 by referring to Arafat as "our Papa Doc." It was only until Samuels produced his superb In a Ruined Country that many could see the magnitude of the disaster that Arafat bequeathed to the region.]

Sometimes an 'A for effort' is all that one can hope for. I have had my own limited experience with the IAEA's difficulty in gaining agreement on a contentious subject. But first, readers need to know how difficult it is to move the IAEA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is, for better or worse, a UN agency established in 1957 as a global "Atoms for Peace" for nuclear cooperation in three fields: safety and security, safeguards and verification, and science and technology. Mohamed ElBaradei is the IAEA's Director General, much like Kofi Annan is Secretary General of the UN, and presides over 138 Member States as of November 2004. An annual General Conference elects a Board of Governors composed of 35 member states that meet in Vienna five times a year.

I am astonished that it achieves as much as it does, and in a private note in 2001 said:

I have watched the IAEA long enough to draw an impression shared by others that the IAEA has been soft on proliferation enforcement, but to retain balance, that position might be a necessary function of a body such as IAEA maintaining access to the facilities it seeks to inspect. The IAEA has a hard job, I think, as many of the owners of the sites it seeks to inspect have a vested interest in it not investigating all the actions of those facilities.

Back to my own experience. The IAEA was holding a four day session, Symposium on International Safeguards: Verification and Nuclear Material Security, 29 Oct-1 Nov, 2001, and added an impromptu fifth day, 2 Nov, for COMBATING NUCLEAR TERRORISM. The lead speaker on the added day was Jerrold Post, formerly the founder and director of CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. Post's presentation caused an uproar because he was impolitic in naming specific IAEA member states. Post's paper was suppressed, in part for those named states, and the fact that, as an attendee told me, such stonewalling was common for certain Arab member states to object to anything that they considered slander.  And this was a session that was not going to take any action as its 'resolutions' statement was "No resolutions may be submitted for consideration on any subject, no votes will be taken."

I am told that Post's briefing was "chilling" and the unofficial, unreleased copy that I received was indeed rather heady stuff for 2001. The closest public text to that unreleased copy that I have is here and a similar cleaned up version without the charts is here. (Readers can purchase a glossy copy from Peace & Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, September 2002, v. 8, no. 3, p. 187-200. Note that Post also produced a Response to various comments about his article in that same issue on p. 223-227.

[As an aside, I recommend Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and Their Strategic Cultures edited by Schneider and Post. See Post's Precise Assessments of Rivals Vital in Asymmetric War Threat Environment, chapter 11.]

Treating with the IAEA is a miniature of treating with the UN, yet its issues of verification, security and safeguards are some of the most contentious of national interests regardless of whether you are in possession or not. I submit that the US urgently needs to blend conciliation and diplomacy with resolve where it is merited and alter its interaction with the IAEA and the UN as when we do get our way we leave droves of unnecessary enemies in our wake.

ElBaradei welcomes Nobel 'boost'
BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK

Profile: Mohamed ElBaradei
BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK

ElBaradei, IAEA Share Nobel Peace Prize
By Fred Barbash and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
October 7, 2005; 10:28 AM

U.S. Alone in Seeking Ouster
15 Countries Rebuff Effort to Unseat Head of Nuclear Agency
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
January 22, 2005

U.S. Seeking No-Confidence Vote on ElBaradei
Global Security Newswire
January 10, 2005

Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and Their Strategic Cultures
Barry R. Schneider, Jerrold M. Post, Editors
July 2003
(Second edition)

Differentiating the Threat of Chemical/Biological Terrorism: Motivations and Constraints
Testimony before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
October 12, 2001
Jerrold M. Post, M.D.
The Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University

Gordon Housworth

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