ElBaradei (LL.M. '71, J.S.D. '74, LL.D. '04) discusses with New York Times Iranian nuclear dilemma

In an interview with New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, Mohamed ElBaradei (LL.M. '71, J.S.D. '74, LL.D. '04), the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, characterized the Bush administration's nuclear diplomacy toward Iran as "a combination of ignorance and arrogance," as related in Cohen's April 13 column, "Realpolitik for Iran." "They kept saying, wait, Iran is not North Korea, it will buckle," El Baradei said. "That was absolutely a mistake."

The administration's diplomatic inflexibility, ElBaradei argued, led it to squander opportunities to contain the Iranian nuclear threat at a few dozen centrifuges by taking a more cooperative stance early on. "We got Darth Vader and company saying Iran was in the axis of evil and we have to change this regime," said ElBaradei, using the name of a Star Wars character in place of Dick Cheney's. Even now, ElBaradei said, the idea that Iran is nearly ready to produce a weapon is "hype," and the most relevant issue is clout, rather than the possibility of a nuclear holocaust: "I don’t believe the Iranians have made a decision to go for a nuclear weapon, but they are absolutely determined to have the technology because they believe it brings you power, prestige and an insurance policy."

ElBaradei asserted that the way forward lies in extensive talks between the U.S. and Iran, with "every grievance on the table." One wild card, he said, is Israel's stated refusal to allow Iran any modicum of nuclear power status, and he worries about a potential Israeli attack on Iran: "If you bomb, you will 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."