I was rather surprised that yesterday’s rather sharp editorial from the Washington Post on Mohammed Elbaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, didn’t get more attention. The Post takes DG ElBaradei to task for playing a lone hand:
FOR SOME time Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian diplomat who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, has made it clear he considers himself above his position as a U.N. civil servant. Rather than carry out the policy of the Security Council or the IAEA board, for which he nominally works, Mr. ElBaradei behaves as if he were independent of them, free to ignore their decisions and to use his agency to thwart their leading members — above all the United States.
Three times in little more than a year the Security Council has passed legally binding resolutions ordering Iran to end its enrichment program; two of them have had relatively weak sanctions attached. Never mind that, says Mr. ElBaradei: He’s decided that the world should simply accept Iran’s enrichment capacity and that sanctions are the wrong response. His frequent public statements to this effect have been harmful, but now he’s gone further. Last month, the IAEA struck its own deal with the Iranian regime, aimed not at the enrichment but at a separate set of unresolved questions about Iran’s nuclear activities. According to the agency, Tehran agreed to a timetable for clearing up these matters by the end of this year.
Giving the director general the greatest possible benefit of the doubt, I don’t believe there’s anything malicious in his behavior. I think he’s very committed to inspections, diplomacy, and voluntary compliance as a means of controlling the spread of nuclear technology.
The IAEA is not a department of the United Nations. It’s a distinct, autonomous agency under the aegis of the United Nations. Its director is answerable, essentially, to no one.
I think a commitment to diplomacy as a means of resolving differences is laudable. Does it enhance or retard that effort when the opinion of the leader of an independent fiefdom within the United Nations organization may overrule the mandates of the United Nations Security Council?