Jeffrey LewisWashington Wavers on ElBaradei

Two U.S. officials tell Dafna Linzer at the Washington Post the Bush Administration will drop efforts to deny Mohamed ElBaradei a third term as IAEA Director-General:

“We’re willing to lift our objections under certain conditions,” one of the officials said.

“Namely, get tougher on Iran.”

Similary, a European official told Louis Charbonneau of Reuters:

“The U.S. will support ElBaradei but it wants some things in return,” a European diplomat told Reuters, adding these issues involved Iran and the general fight against nuclear arms proliferation.

ElBaradei will meet with Condoleeza Rice to discuss a “number of important non-proliferation matters that will come up at next week’s (IAEA) board of governors meeting,” IAEA spokesperson Mark Gwozdecky told Charbonneau. As for a third-term, State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said he “wouldn’t be surprised if the issue came up.”

Rice, according to Linzer, invited ElBaradei to Washington after European diplomats argued the divisive debate was strengthening Iran:

At talks last week in London, European officials implored their U.S. counterparts to resolve the issue and back ElBaradei, arguing that the continued stance against him was causing unnecessary friction at a time when unity was needed in dealing with Iran, according to the U.S. officials and a senior European diplomat.

Two comments about the conditions:

1. The so-called conditions will be impossible to implement. What does it mean to be “tough” on Iran? That’s an attitude, not a policy. Moreover, ElBaradei hasn’t been soft on Iran.

2. Moreover, the U.S. has no leverage to insist on the so-called conditions. One U.S. official told Linzer Washington was taking lemons and making lemonade:

“He is going to win either way, and if we went in opposing him, it would be ugly for us and for him … So it’s in everyone’s interest to use the opportunity to work better together.”

The conditions appear to be spin, spun by the Bush Administration to reduce the appearance of being no-talent ass-clowns.


  1. J

    Doesn’t the various statements by U.S. officials outlining their “conditions” for support for El-Baradei, reveal the sheer disengenousness of previous U.S. statements, including that by John Bolton at his SFRC confirmation hearing, that the Geneva Rule was the motivating factor behind U.S. opposition? Has this Administration gone so far that it no takes care to camaflouge a lie?

    [Good point. ACW]

  2. Stygius (History)

    Goes to show that Bolton is that much more out of the loop these days.

  3. Max Postman (History)

    The Geneva rule was a pretty ridiculous reason to oppose ElBaradei, anyway. Joe Cirincione points out the “rule” is routinely ignored, particularly at the IAEA:

    “Of the four men that have headed the IAEA over its 48 years, only the first, U.S. Congressman Sterling Cole, served just one term, from 1957 to 1961. The next director general, Swedish scientist Sigvard Eklund, held the job for 20 years. Then the Swedish lawyer Hans Blix held it for 16 years. The Geneva Rule has not been applied consistently to other international organizations, either. Robert McNamara held the top job at the World Bank for 13 years (1968-81), and David Morse ran the International Labour Organization for 22 years (1948-70), among others.”.

    [I am heartbroken that you picked Joe’s article over my post making the same point, entitled William Safire Is A Total Hack. Loyal readers, harumph. ACW]

  4. J

    The Geneva Rule appears to be of recent vintage, e.g. forged sometime in the early 1990s. That would render obsolete many of the examples given, since they occured prior to its establishment. But it really is unclear when exactly it came into being, adding to the general puzzlement about this rule. Also, this is not a rule—it’s just a gentleman’s agreement among the top eight contributing nation states to international organizations. Sort of a rich man’s club dictating to the rest of the world … where else do we see that?