Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei's most prominent personality trait is his chutzpah. Two weeks before Israel destroyed the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria on September 6, ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was complaining to Australian television about the US's decision to augment its military assistance to Israel by $30 billion over the next 10 years. The move, he said, would lead to a regional arms race.
As far as ElBaradei is concerned, diplomacy means never having to say you're sorry and always attacking people who actually care what you think. And so it is not surprising that ever since Israel destroyed the installation in al-Kibar, ElBaradei has reserved his sharpest attacks not for Syria, which was exposed as an illicit nuclear proliferator, but for Israel and the US.
Unlike Israel, Syria is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. At this week's meeting of the IAEA's Board of Governors, ElBaradei discussed how – in breach of its treaty obligations – Syria has refused IAEA requests to inspect the bombed out site and three other suspected nuclear sites in the country.
The IAEA has been asking for permission to inspect al-Kibar since September. And since September Damascus has ignored the requests. Satellite photography has shown that Syria has used the intervening months to build a new structure over the destroyed reactor to hide it. Evidently Damascus is now comfortable with the situation on the ground because it has apparently agreed to allow UN inspectors to visit the site later this month.
Damascus's belated response to IAEA requests is anything but a sign that Syria is ready to come clean on its nuclear programs. While allowing inspectors at the altered al-Kibar site, Syria has refused IAEA requests to inspect three other military installations where it is suspected of developing nuclear weapons. Nuclear experts told news agencies this week that two of those sites are operational. One is suspected of having equipment that can reprocess nuclear material into the fissile core of warheads.
But ElBaradei doesn't really care. At the Board of Governors meeting this week he sufficed with the laconic statement that Damascus "has an obligation to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility to the agency."
The countries that really got his goat were Israel and the US.
ElBaradei complained bitterly that the US waited until April to tell the IAEA what Israel bombed last September. And, of course, he attacked Israel for attacking the nuclear reactor in the first place.
In his words, "It is deeply regrettable that information concerning this installation was not provided to the agency in a timely manner and that force was resorted to unilaterally before the agency was given an opportunity to establish the facts."
ElBaradei has headed the UN's nuclear watchdog agency for six years. His stewardship of the IAEA landed him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Given the Nobel committee's open anti-Americanism and embrace of terrorists and their state sponsors, the committee's support for ElBaradei makes sense. For under ElBaradei's leadership, the IAEA has devoted itself to performing two tasks. It seeks to be informed of rogue regime's illicit nuclear weapons programs before those programs are exposed in the media and cause the IAEA embarrassment; and it works to ensure that nothing will be done to thwart these rogue regimes' nuclear weapons programs.
If he had to choose between the first and second goal, ElBaradei has been clear that he will always choose to protect rogue nuclear programs – even if they are hidden in plain sight. As he explained to the BBC in May 2007, "I have no brief other than to make sure we don't go into another war or that we go crazy killing each other."
Hinting at his reason for obfuscating Iran's quest for the atom bomb he added, "You do not want to give additional arguments to new crazies who say, 'Let's go and bomb Iran.'"
To prevent such "crazies" from acting, in August 2006 ElBaradei launched an attack against the US Congress. In an icy letter to the then-chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, ElBaradei attacked the committee's report on Iran's nuclear program that accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons and accused the IAEA of working to prevent conclusions from being drawn about the nature of Iran's nuclear program.
IT IS in light of ElBaradei's unrelenting work to protect Iran's nuclear program and his campaign against Westerners who wish to take concerted action to prevent Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons that the IAEA's latest report on Iran is so remarkable.
The IAEA submitted its latest report to the UN Security Council and its own Board of Governors on Monday. A far cry from its anemic predecessors, the latest report is a smoking gun.
The report sets out considerable evidence implicating Teheran in an attempt to develop nuclear weapons. It also admits that Iran has failed to explain documented evidence of military aspects of its program.
Specifically, the IAEA report noted that Iran is building structures that fit the description of a nuclear test site. Iran has performed work designing a missile re-entry vehicle. It has conducted studies toward building a uranium conversion facility that would convert uranium yellowcake to UF4, or Green Salt – a process vital for producing uranium metal for weapons cores. Iran made advances toward adapting its Shihab-3 ballistic missiles to detonate some 650 meters above their targets – a capacity only relevant for nuclear warheads. It has developed and tested exploding bridgewire detonators "that could be applicable to an implosion-type nuclear device."
The IAEA report also warned that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards-owned company Kimia Maadan has been actively involved in the nuclear program, as have several other firms run by the Iranian military. These firms include the Physics Research Center, the Institute of Applied Physics, the Educational Research Institute and the Defense Industries Organization.
The IAEA's report is devastating. Indeed, it seems to back up the Mossad's warning that Iran could have an atomic arsenal by next year. At a minimum, it moves the international conversation about Iran's nuclear program from the question of whether Iran is building nuclear bombs to when Iran will acquire nuclear bombs.
THE QUESTION that naturally arises from the IAEA report is why did ElBaradei agree to publish it?
Given his openly stated objective of preventing anyone from attacking Teheran's nuclear installations, the only reasonable explanation for ElBaradei's behavior is that he is convinced that Iran's nuclear installations are safe. That is, ElBaradei is willing to point a finger at Iran because he is sure that neither the US nor Israel will prevent it from getting the bomb.
To have reached this conclusion, ElBaradei needed no further intelligence than the morning papers. Reading them, he would have seen that the US intelligence and foreign policy communities have decided to throw in the towel on the war everywhere other than Iraq. The US capitulation, which began with the Bush administration's decision to appease North Korea last year, went into full gear with December's publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which claimed it had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Then came the Bush administration's embrace of Palestinian statehood as what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to as "a vital US interest" in her address to AIPAC's policy conference this week.
After that came the downfall of Pakistani dictator and guardian of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal Pervez Musharraf. As the effective release of Pakistan's Dr. Strangelove, A.Q. Khan, from house a
rrest this week, and the new "democratic" Pakistani government's surrender of North and South Waziristan to the Taliban in recent weeks show, the US's support for Musharraf on the one hand, and failure to support or develop anti-jihadist forces in Pakistani society and the Pakistani military on the other, has brought about a situation where the US has no one to turn to in Pakistan today. Rather than take action to secure Afghanistan from the Pakistan-based Taliban or arrest Khan, the Bush administration has sufficed with whining and begging the new pro-jihad and anti-American "democratic" government to accept more US military assistance.
On the ideological front, the US has similarly capsized its war efforts. In April the Homeland Security Department distributed a memo instructing US officials not to use the terms "Islamic," "Islamist," "jihad" or "jihadist" to describe the US's enemy in the war. Moreover, the new guidance – which the State Department reportedly adopted happily – also asserts that it is wrong for the US to use the word "liberty" to describe what it hopes to replace jihad with in Muslim societies. From now on, the war is to be described as a campaign to bring "progress" to the Middle East. And the war is no longer a war. Rather, it is the "Global Struggle for Security and Progress."
But not everyone was satisfied with the new Orwellian terminology. Last week the Financial Times reported that Charles Allen, the Department of Homeland Security's undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, wrote a memo arguing that the term "war on terror" should also be dropped. In his view, the term creates "animus" toward the US in the Muslim world, which automatically (and unaccountably) associates terrorism with Islam.
And of course, in ordering US officials responsible for analyzing intelligence and conducting US diplomacy to ignore the nature of the enemy as well as the US's counter-ideology of liberty, the US is merely following the example of the EU and Britain, which abandoned any attempt to bring rationality into their intelligence analyses long ago. Given that these are the people who are responsible for assessing data on Iran's nuclear program, ElBaradei probably figured that he has nothing to worry about.
To all of this, of course, must be added the developments in Lebanon. Apparently, the US's new policy for Lebanon is to ignore the fact that two weeks ago, the Doha agreement between Hizbullah and the Saniora government transferred control of the country to Hizbullah and its state sponsor Iran. In her speech before AIPAC, Rice applauded the Doha agreement as a "positive step." Earlier in the week, in a visit to Beirut, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman announced that the US intends to increase its assistance to the Lebanese army, which takes its orders from Hizbullah and Iran.
So through its serial capitulation to its enemies, the US has convinced ElBaradei that Washington has washed its hands of the war.
THAT OF course leaves Israel.
For the past five years, Israel's leaders – from Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Eli Yishai – have acted as though Iran's nuclear program is someone else's responsibility. "Washington is leading the campaign against Iran," everyone has said. Aside from issuing periodic backhanded threats, Israel has developed no coherent diplomatic or coercive policy for actually preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel can delude itself no longer in thinking that someone else will protect it from annihilation. ElBaradei's lack of concern that "crazies" will attack Iran shows the Israeli people that if we wish to survive, we must ensure that our leaders understand that we alone are responsible for our security and survival.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.