Earlier this month, I had a post titled “The Return of the IAEA.” What I meant was this (in a nutshell): For decades, the International Atomic Energy Agency was a technical branch of the U.N. It provided member-states with what they needed to know about matters nuclear. In the 1990s and especially in the 2000s, it went badly off course, becoming a political agency, and a quasi-protector of the Iranian regime. (I say “quasi” in order to be polite.) One director-general, Hans Blix, was a problem. But his successor, Mohamed ElBaradei, was a full-blown scandal — earning himself (if “earning” is the word) a Nobel Peace Prize. After ElBaradei left, however, the IAEA returned to its rightful role, and indeed its mandate: It is providing necessary information in the nuclear area, including about Iran.
All of the above is prelude to this: From the Associated Press comes a report headed “Iran nuke chief harshly criticizes atomic agency.” The first paragraph reads, “Iran’s nuclear chief said Monday that ‘terrorists and saboteurs’ might have infiltrated the International Atomic Energy Agency in an effort to derail his nation’s atomic program. It was Tehran’s harshest attack on the integrity of the U.N. organization and its investigation of allegations that Iran is striving to make nuclear arms.”
You could never, ever have read that in the ElBaradei days. And this is very good news: We need the IAEA. We need the IAEA to be neutral, factual, and responsive. Nuclear information is not trivial information to have.
Incidentally, the 2005 peace prize went not only to ElBaradei, as director-general, but to the IAEA as an agency. I wonder if some on the committee want to snatch it back from the agency. (This, you can’t do: Once the prize is given, it’s given. It is neither returnable nor withdrawable.) (Kissinger tried to return his prize, after the fall of Saigon. The committee said no. The co-laureate in 1973, Le Duc Tho, refused the prize altogether — the only person in history to do so.) (The Nobel committee still lists him as a laureate anyway. You can say no to them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll say no to you.)