ElBaradei’s moral blindness

Mohammad ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is shockingly biased, and should never have held that position.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency downplayed Israel’s concern over an Iranian nuclear threat on Wednesday, telling a New York audience, “Truth is in the eyes of the beholder…”

“If you look from the Arab point of view, the Arabs are as concerned or more about the Israeli nuclear weapons program as the Israelis are about the Iranian’s,” he said.

The only solution, he said, “is to rid the whole Middle East from weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons,” he said. “You cannot have a security system that is perceived to be imbalanced.” — Jerusalem Post

ElBaradei’s philosophical musings are out of place for someone responsible for answering objective questions like ‘is Iran developing a nuclear weapon?’ We presume that he was speaking about his private beliefs, not his approach as head of the IAEA. We hope.

Some background:

The IAEA is not exactly a UN agency, although it presents reports to the UN. Its authority comes from a document signed by all but about 40 UN member states called the IAEA Statute.  The main function of the agency is to facilitate the peaceful use of atomic energy by providing technical assistance for members wishing to develop such peaceful uses, with appropriate safeguards.

The Statute also provides that the IAEA may also be used as part of an enforcement mechanism for international treaties regarding nuclear energy:

5. To establish and administer safeguards designed to ensure that special fissionable and other materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information made available by the Agency or at its request or under its supervision or control are not used in such a way as to further any military purpose; and to apply safeguards, at the request of the parties, to any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or at the request of a State, to any of that State’s activities in the field of atomic energy;

The treaty that’s relevant, of course, is the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, or NPT, whose Article III calls for signatories to accept the ‘safeguards’ of the IAEA Statute.

The NPT says that only five nations may develop nuclear weapons: the US, Russia, the UK, China and France. India, Israel and Pakistan have not signed the treaty (North Korea did, but withdrew). Iran is a signatory, and therefore is in violation of it.

When the treaty was originally signed in 1968, only the US, the Soviet Union and the UK officially had nuclear weapons (France and China were added in 1992). Interestingly, Israel may well have had a weapon in 1968, and certainly did by 1970 when the treaty came into force. Maybe it should have signed the treaty as a nuclear power!

In any event, Israel’s nuclear arsenal does not violate the treaty since Israel never signed it. Despite the way the phrase ‘international law’ is often used to mean ‘my belief system’, it really refers to adherence to treaties and agreements. Thus Iran is violating international law, and Israel is not.

Back to ElBaradei:

His statement that “the Arabs are as concerned or more about the Israeli nuclear weapons program as the Israelis are about the Iranian’s” is outrageous.

Israel has had nuclear capabilities since at least 1970, perhaps even in 1967.  Historian Avner Cohen has described its policy:

The original Ben-Gurion rationale for acquiring nuclear weapons was conceptualized and defined…in terms of having an option of “last resort.” They also produced the early articulation of “red lines” whose crossing could trigger the use of nuclear weapons. There were four specific scenarios that could lead to nuclear use: (a) a successful Arab military penetration into populated areas within Israel’s post-1949 borders; (b) the destruction of the Israeli Air Force; (c) the exposure of Israeli cities to massive and devastating air attacks or to possible chemical or biological attacks; (d) the use of nuclear weapons against Israeli territory. Each of these scenarios was defined, in qualitative terms, as an existential threat to the State of Israel against which the nation could defend itself by no other means than the use of atomic weapons, which would be politically and morally justified. — Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, (1999) p. 237

It can be argued that this doctrine has influenced the behavior of Israel’s friends — the US in 1973, when Nixon and Kissinger decided to resupply Israel at a critical moment — and enemies (Saddam’s scuds had conventional warheads) so as to enable Israel’s continued existence, or at least to prevent massive loss of life.

Insofar as the Arabs are ‘concerned’ by this, they are concerned that it prevents them from eliminating Israel!

ElBaradei complains that the system is “unbalanced.” It seems to me that it is very well balanced indeed, a system in which Israel’s nuclear capability has balanced Arab chemical-biological weapons, as well as providing some essential diplomatic ‘balance’.

To compare this to Israel’s concern about Iran — when various Iranian leaders, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Ayatollah Khamane’i and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani have threatened to destroy Israel or facilitate its destruction — is an example of the moral blindness unfortunately too common among those with “the arab point of view.”

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One Response to “ElBaradei’s moral blindness”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    ElBaradei has consistently underplayed the Iranian nuclear work. He has in effect served as a shill for them, and failed totally in his responsibility of preventing them from attaining a nuclear capability.
    The sad thing is that there is not even one responsible world- leader who will censure him.