Friday, December 11, 2009

ElBaradei to run on Fusion ticket?

Elbaradei bows out

From Ian Williams

Passionate Detachment,
Middle East International 1 December 2009

To have John Bolton and the US government trying to keep you out of international office could be a matter of considerable pride. But an even greater achievement for Mohamed Elbaradei was to secure his third term as head of the IAEA in 2005, for he had decided to run again precisely because of Bolton’s challenge. Now some Arabs are wondering whether Elbaradei could face down the Mubarak dynasty in Egypt with equal success.

Elbaradei is certainly no mob orator in the Nasserite mode. Eschewing empty rhetoric, he is shy and diffident in conversation, but he does not pull his punches when he speaks on substantial issues. Noticeably, he avoids the third-worldist, Islamist rhetoric that tries to turn any opponent of the West into a hero. With his democratic convictions and cosmopolitan experience he certainly harboured no illusions about the late Saddam Hussein, or indeed has he about the government in Tehran, which has repaid his efforts to help with perpetual obstruction. His eminently objective good sense infuriates those on both poles whose subjective and expedient stands he refuses to endorse.

As he finishes his third and final term, the reason for his popularity with the rest of the world is obvious. Contrast his behaviour with that of the British senior civil servants sidling out of the panelled woodwork to stick the knife into Tony Blair at the Chilcot Inquiry in London. Their silence and compliance in the run-up to the Iraq war contrast starkly with Elbaradei’s outspokenness, not least because his candour was in the face of the most vindictive and unforgiving administration in Washington.

In March 2003 in the Security Council, with soft-spoken deadpan rigour, Elbaradei read his report with all the brio of a lawyer reading a will. But it helped rip up the tissue of lies on which the case for war had been built with his exposure of the documents that had been concocted to “prove” that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger. Similarly, his objectivity over Iran’s erratic nuclear behaviour has been an example to all in the face of similar pressure to stampede to war.

Begun under Eisenhower as Atoms for Peace, the IAEA had for years been a technical agency with a profile lower than the Universal Postal Union – and perhaps much less conducive to the public good. The “peaceful” nuclear reactors it promoted still generate by-products that are useful for making bombs. Elbaradei, realising that dichotomy, declared: “Under the current system, any country has the right to master these operations for civilian uses. But in doing so, it also masters the most difficult steps in making a nuclear bomb.”

Except for Iran, under a Security Council mandate, nations have that right now; but Elbaradei wants to remove it from everyone, “to tighten control over the operations for producing the nuclear material that could be used in weapons.” And, he also declared, “we must ensure – absolutely – that no more countries acquire these deadly weapons,” that “nuclear-weapon states take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament,” and “we must put in place a security system that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.”

That sounds entirely reasonable to almost everyone, of course, except generals and politicians in the nuclear states who are quite prepared to cheer enforcement as long as it applies only to others.

When he says that the nuclear non-proliferation regime has “lost its legitimacy in the eyes of Arab public opinion because of the perceived double-standard” over Israel’s nuclear weapons, it is clear common sense. But it appears almost audacious when one considers the total silence from Western leaders about Israel’s arsenal, even in the face of Israeli insistence that the world must stop at nothing to thwart Iran’s ambitions.

On that, Elbaradei is equally forthright. An Israeli attack on Iran would “turn the region into a ball of fire and put Iran on a crash course for nuclear weapons with the support of the whole Muslim world.”

Elbaradei has proven that he is not a single-issue reformer. He breached the boundaries of technocracy in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “We may have torn down the walls between East and West, but we have yet to build the bridges between North and South – the rich and the poor,” pointing out that the “the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on armaments. But we contributed less than 10% of that amount – a mere $80 billion – as official development assistance to the developing parts of the world, where 850 million people suffer from hunger.”

The question now is what he will do after he has stood down. Along with Amr Mousa from the Arab League, he has been touted as a presidential candidate when Hosni Mubarak’s term finishes in 2011. Admittedly Elbaradei has set himself considerable hurdles by demanding “built-in guarantees that the election be run properly.” His family history as a democrat and reformer is unlikely to persuade the Egyptian government to bypass the complex rules set up to ensure that the purpose of elections is to elect a Mubarak.

But having someone of his domestic and international stature running for office would certainly put the spotlight on the government in Cairo. It would also present a dilemma for Washington, whose affection for democracy in the Middle East has always been tempered with an attachment to regimes that will be “moderate” with Israel. In the meantime, there are more than enough non-proliferation tasks to keep the outgoing IAEA chief busy in the multilateral world, and that is where he has a serious comparative advantage: he is committed to disarmament for everybody, not just expediently for those whom the great powers, and more specifically the Western powers, distrust.

1 comment:

Rupa Shah said...

Excellent post. May be, he should work for "interests of the humanity" rather than just for Egypt!