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.