Jeffrey LewisBolton: US Will Not Support 3rd Term for IAEA's El Baradei

The Nelson Report claims that Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton has informed IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei that “the US will not support his candidacy for a third term, even though both of his predecessors served four terms (12 years) each”.

Reuters, however, is reporting that despite having urged ElBaradei to step down, “the Bush administration may be unwilling to undertake an all-out political battle to oust him, U.S. officials and diplomats say.” Powell previously suggested a third term for any international official was “problematic” in principle, but declined to be specific about ElBaradei. Instead, Powell claimed the US would make our judgment on specific cases..

The Nelson Report also mentions tension between Bolton and ElBaradei following revelations from the IAEA and Iraqi Interim Government that 350-tons of high explosives were looted from a previously secure site in the early days of the US occupation in 2003. This material is believed to be the primary source of the lethal car bomb attacks. The failure to secure the explosives will likely prove a major embarrassment for the Bush Administration.

The conflict between the Washington and IAEA (to which Washington still lacks an Ambassador due to Sen. Jon Kyl’s hold on Jim Cunningham’s nomination to Vienna) comes as Iran continues to talk with the Europeans. [Note, the Times is reporting that Iran has “rejected” the most recent European proposal as unbalanced. AFP noted on Friday that “Iran’s response was that the proposal was unbalanced” and that Iran would present a counter-proposal next week. This is a non-story right now.]

I suspect the Iranians will at least stall until the US election.

The US can’t act until November 25, when Powell has warned that Washington will press the IAEA to refer the issue to the Security Council. [Powell also put the squeeze on North Korea] Come November 25, Colin Powell could be a lame-duck. In that event, I hope Bush would spare Powell the indignity of reprising his Iraq performance before the Security Council. “History repeats itself,” Karl Marx said, “first as tragedy, second as farce.”

Even if the Bush Administration is re-elected, the Iranians are likely to wait until some of the policy uncertainty is resolved—Both an incoming Kerry and re-elected Bush Administration will have to settle some of the battles centered around regime change, diplomatic representation in Vienna and whether ElBaradei stays.