Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ElBaradei Brews Tea: The IAEA on Iran

Iran_nuclear_plant The International Atomic Energy Agency has been in the news a fair amount lately, especially as it tries to stake out a position vis a vis Iran before the Obama administration really turns it sights eastward:

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that after stockpiling enriched uranium, Iran would face further technical and political hurdles should it seek to build nuclear arms.

"There is a concern, but don't hype the concern," ElBaradei, alluding mainly to U.S. and Israeli warnings, said in a CNN interview broadcast late Sunday. "There is ample time to engage (Iran) and reverse the concern and to move into more engagement rather than more isolation."

While ElBaradei is perhaps a little over-sanguine in his gentle assessment of Iran’s ambitions, he’s not a fool about it, at least not precisely, though his pronouncements are very cautious:

In an interview with the Washington Post, ElBaradei said Iran had seen that the ability to build an atom bomb in a short period would give it an insurance policy against attack.

"Obviously, they look for their own security, and they have seen that if you have nuclear weapons, or at least the technology, you are somehow protected from an attack," he told the Post's Sunday edition.

“Somehow protected from an attack.” Let’s allow that the IAEA has its priorities – as a United Nations agency, it has to tread around the sensitivities of its members, of which Iran is one, to achieve its goals of inspection and cooperation – and further recognize that this rather weak tea from ElBaradei is made from very strong leaves – leaves that could upset important stomachs.

How does Iran see this? Here’s the lede on the Tehran Times’ story:

The UN nuclear watchdog chief urged the Obama administration on Thursday to open ""direct dialogue at a high level"" with Iran with “no preconditions” on its nuclear program.

We’re not a big fan of the word “preconditions,” heretofore known as “conditions,” and we’re sure Iranians know that their nuclear plans will be part of any discussion with the United States – Topic A, even – but a recognition seems to growing that the saber rattling that has characterized American-Iranian relations over the past several years will morph into something other, perhaps something that stands to make Iran seem less beleaguered and thus less attractive to its part of the world. (Not that it’s been all that attractive: at least some of the recent Arab interest in nuclear energy seems motivated by sidewise discomfort with Tehran.)

A story that will become much larger in the next couple of years.

Under construction: the nuclear plant in Bushehr.

1 comment:

Rod Adams said...

It is hard to look critically at world events in the past half century and not come away with the conclusion that owning nuclear knowledge gives a nation a certain amount of security from attack. Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, China, Russia, France, the UK, and the US have all developed their nuclear expertise partially as a result of a desire for national security.

Anyone who has studied middle eastern politics and history knows that there has been a contentious relationship between the Persians and the Arabs for many centuries. In the oil age, a major component of that conflict has been the battle over market share in the oil industry with Iran's oil being used as a wedge against Saudi oil by both the US and the UK.

Nuclear energy research and development is also scary for some people because it plays a role in energy industry competition, not just because there is a remote risk of nuclear warfare. If a nation has all of the components required for a complete nuclear power industry, it has a much greater ability to prosper and to act independently.

For those who spread rumors about Iran's uranium resources, use a little logic. It is a large and mountainous country with a lot of desert regions. It has a town named Ramsar that has some of the highest natural background radiation exposures in the world. Those facts indicate to me that the country has access to plenty of uranium within its own borders.

Please understand that I am no apologist for the way that Iran treats women or for the way that acts in certain countries. I also do not like many of its friends. However, some of those factors are even worse in countries like Saudi Arabia, yet we do not seem to have an issue with them there.