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Monday, December 22, 2008

El Baradei interview, part 2

This weekend's interview with Mohamed El Baradei seems to only have been part 1. Part 2, published in Al Hayat (Arabic only), concentrates on nuclear issues. While it is infused with his usual wishful thinking, there are some parts that have some value. I cannot believe that I cannot find this interview in English anywhere - when the head of the IAEA talks about Iranian nuclear ambitions, it is important. Here is some of what he said:
Iran says its nuclear program is only for economic purposes, an that after 20 years of being under siege, and that it would achieve self-sufficiency. But I have no doubt that this is part of its desire to buy an insurance policy, after you hear a lot about the [US] desire for regime change as being part of the axis of evil. It is therefore not surprising that Iran is trying to obtain an insurance policy.

I always say that, whatever the nature of the regime, it is always looking for continuity and survival. Consequently, the draft Iran in large part insurance policy, it considers that the same actors in the region, that were not the largest. It wants to be recognized [as a regional power] with the West, especially the United States, this role. Therefore, another part of its determination to have the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons is their desire to obtain recognition of this regional role it wants.

Iran's essentially competing for territorial control, and the role that both parties would like to play in the region. Therefore, I always say that the solution to this will only be through dialogue and negotiation. Two parties must sit down at the negotiating table and put forward their concerns and their red lines, to reach a compromise that everyone can live with in peace.

...As far as Obama is concerned, I am optimistic. He will negotiate directly with Iran without conditions, while the Bush administration and the six countries so far require Tehran to suspend enrichment before sitting with them to the negotiating table. But we must wait and see his policy and, if it is true [that Obama requires no preconditions], it would be a very positive step, because there will be no solution without building confidence. In the past six years since we began inspections in Iran, the process of building confidence between Iran and the international community had failed. We have not one inch forward in this regard. We inspect, but there are still outstanding issues. A key part of how to build confidence between Iran and the international community, especially the United States, we have not moved forward.

Also, Obama said he would like to work hard for a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a complete change in the policy of the current administration, in general, the policies of nuclear powers continue to rely on nuclear weapons, and a complete change in the concept of international security and foreign policy will have implications throughout the world, including in the Middle East.

I think [the West] reached this conclusion, not because of ideals, but because of fear, that the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons at the current rate contains the risk that some of these weapons will fall in the hands of extremist groups. Thus, the so-called nuclear deterrence will cease to exist, because the extremist groups if they had the nuclear weapons [would not hesitate to use them.] We are not talking about the States, whether Iran or North Korea, I can not imagine that any country would nuclear weapons because it knows that it will be destroyed completely. This raises the fear that appeared recently, and to make people like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, who were poles in the Cold War and advocates of nuclear deterrence, calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. If that is what Obama said, there would be a radical change in the subject. The course will have an impact on our region.

Q: What is the price which we believe is required to pay for Iran to stop en route to nuclear weapons?
A: A lot. Regional role, and guarantees of the system and technological assistance, aid and trade. Political and economic security. A system of regional security in the region and assisting Iran in all advanced technologies, including nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in addition to the international trade agreement. The West made a very generous offer.

Q: Why was this offer not accepted by Iran?

A: Because it requested the suspension of enrichment before negotiations begin. This issue is most important to them. Therefore, we do not want to abandon them at the beginning of negotiations, but may do so in the end. The obstacle in the negotiations is the insistence of the West to suspend enrichment before negotiations on the one hand, and Iran's insistence on refusing to negotiate with these conditions on the other.

What worries me is that there will be a solution to the Iranian problem, and it would be an integral part of it linked to regional security and Iran's role in the region. Therefore, Arab countries must be part of the process of negotiating with Iran, as any solution to the situation will be a regional solution at the expense of Arab States affected. I do not understand how they are absent from the problem like it deems vital to it, and how can a solution without the Arab part of it.

Q; However, any regional security solution will include Israel as well.
A: Yes, of course. It will involve Israel and the Palestinian problem and Israeli nuclear arms. I am convinced that all this would be raised during negotiations. Therefore, I do not understand that the Arabs are not part of it.

Neighboring countries are sitting with North Korea. With the issue of Iran, the Arab countries are absent, just as we were not in Iraq, as well as in Darfur, in Somalia and member of the Arab League, the Arabs deal with it as if it were in Central America.

[Later, in a non-sequitor answer that had nothing to do with the question, El Baradei has to say] Even on the Palestinian issue which is the core of all problems in the Middle East. Finally I saw Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, both former advisor to the national security of the heads of Democrats and Republicans, wrote to Obama in a letter not to waste time in the Middle East and to begin the solution to the Palestinian cause as the basis of the Arab sense of injustice, injustice and humiliation.

Q: Based on estimates, how long it would take for Iran if the situation continues as it is to produce a nuclear bomb?
A: I do not want to go into talking about numbers. But Iran can not have a nuclear bomb as long as it is subject to IAEA inspection regime, as the degree of uranium enrichment will remain low in the range of 5 percent enrichment. Nuclear weapons requires a rate of 90 percent enrichment, this will not happen as long as they are subject to the Agency inspections.

Therefore, to get Iran to a nuclear bomb, it must opt out of the first inspection regime and non-proliferation. This of course would be a signal to the world that Iran is moving in another way, and there will be time to deal with it. This is first.

Secondly, not only must Iran have the capacity to enrich uranium by 90 percent, but also to convert it into a bomb. And that they have the means to weaponize enriched uranium, a complicated process that takes some time. There are many assumptions and possibilities talking about a scenario evolution of a sudden, is that Iran out of the agreement and expel the inspectors and has become the enriched uranium necessary and the capacity to manufacture. We are talking at least several years. Even the uranium found in Iran is now not enough for one bomb.

Q: The source of this uranium?
A: The enrichment facility in Natanz were imported after uranium ore. All this was done under the supervision of the IAEA. But there is a lot of worry, as if we will wake to a nuclear Iran. As I said we are not talking about months, but a year or two at least. These estimates are difficult because we do not see the whole picture, we do not know the extent of Iran's progress in the manufacture of enriched uranium. Even U.S. intelligence agencies reported that Iran has itself conducted some studies, only studies in this area, but stopped in 2003. We have not seen otherwise.

There is no evidence of any state that Iran was able to (see) the manufacture of a nuclear bomb in a military sense, or evidence of the possession of low-enriched uranium, enough to make even one bomb at the present time, and are subject to inspection. What I would like to say that there is still time to reach a peaceful solution.

Q: Is it possible that there will be Iranian nuclear facilities that you are not aware of?

A: - Of course, this is possible in any country. But there is no evidence of any State or intelligence on the existence of undeclared facilities to them. The inspection system can not guarantee that we know everything one hundred percent of the nuclear activities of any State. We are always in a conflict between demand for greater transparency and the attempt to say that it can not open fully because it has the sovereignty and military installations and military secrets. What distinguishes Iran of course, is that it concealed some of its activities in the past, so we say that it must take the initiative and show greater transparency so that it is our understanding that all nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.
El Baradei's confidence in the IAEA's ability to know exactly what is happening in Iran, even as he admits that he cannot possibly know if Iran has a secret nuclear program, should scare the hell out of anyone who relies on the IAEA for any assurances. He is clearly an intelligent man and has thought about these issues a great deal, but his blind spot is that his very position depends on peaceful negotiations and the IAEA has no real ability to look beyond the places it is allowed to go. It is not a spy agency and it generates a great deal of data from the information it is allowed to gather, so the IAEA fools itself by burying its collective head in the information it can verify and it all but ignores everything else.

This also explains his single-minded insistence on "peaceful negotiations" and on rewarding Iran for its obstinacy. The IAEA needs legitimate data and it can only get it with the inspected nation's approval. The blind spot is the inability - even in the face of known deception in the past - to imagine that a large amount of information is being purposefully hidden from IAEA inspectors.

And yet he even admits explicitly that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons! The entire interview is an object lesson in how easy it is for even a smart man to fool himself.