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ElBaradei slams West's rejection of the Iran-Turkey-Brazil d
Thu Jun 3, 2010 16:38
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Baradei supports the Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear deal, warns against sanctions and military strikes
by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett (source: Race for Iran)
Wednesday, June 2, 2010



Jornal do Brasil, one of the largest-circulation newspapers in Brazil, conducted a very substantive and timely interview with the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, about the Iran-Turkey-Brazil Joint Declaration. The interview was published in Portuguese on May 29; we were able to obtain a copy of the English-language original, and append that text below.

At the risk of sounding immodest, it is nice to have a Nobel laureate echoing one’s principal analytic arguments. Among Baradei’s major points in the interview:

–Regarding the Iran-Turkey-Brazil Joint Declaration—which, in many respects, is patterned after the so-called Baradei proposal for refueling the Tehran Research Reactor—

“I was frankly not surprised that the offer came through. I was surprised at the reaction that some countries would continue to say that they want to apply sanctions, because, the Iranian issue, if you remove over half of the material that Iran has to Turkey, that is clearly a confidence-building measure regarding concerns about Iran’s future intentions…to say that we are going to apply sanctions nonetheless despite this deal, I think would be completely counterproductive”.

–Contrary to alarmist assessments of Iran’s proximity to being able to fabricate nuclear weapons, Baradei says that

“there is absolutely no imminent threat that Iran is going to develop the bomb tomorrow from the material that they have in Iran…I haven’t seen since I was in the agency six months ago any indication that Iran is working on an actual nuclear weapon. So, the idea of Iran as an imminent threat having nuclear weapons in the next month or two is totally exaggerated and I think that assessment is still shared by all the Western intelligence services. There is a fear about Iran’s future intentions, which as I said can only be resolved through negotiations and trust, but nobody is suggesting that Iran is on the brink of developing nuclear weapons.”

– There are, of course,

“Security Council resolutions that say Iran should stop enrichment completely as a confidence building measure, but we all know that these issues can only be resolved through negotiations…We know in negotiations that you will not get everything before the start of the negotiations. In fact, that insistence to get everything before you start negotiating, the result of that was six years of wasted time on resolving the Iranian issue. We wasted six years in the past because the Western approach was that Iran should give everything before the start of the negotiation.”

–With regard to the Obama Administration’s hard-line response to the Iran-Turkey-Brazil Joint Declaration and continuing push for new sanctions against Iran,

“My worry is that if you go and adopt sanctions you will really get a major rift between the North and the South. If you have countries like Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, and the rest of the South on one side supporting an Iranian deal and pulling for negotiations and the West completely taking another view and saying let’s just go for sanctions, that rift has never materialized in my view and it would be quite dangerous that you continue to have a fault-line between the North and the South on an issue which we all know can only be resolved through negotiations.”

–On the recent involvement of Brazil and Turkey in diplomacy dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, Baradei argues that

“the international community should have as many responsible players as possible in every part of the world. Turkey is part of the Middle East so it is legitimate that Turkey should be involved in a conflict in Iran, which is its neighbor. Brazil is a major player right now in the world and should be an economic powerhouse but also a political powerhouse and should be involved. One of the issues still debated is that the Security Council is not representing the world of 2010, it’s still representative of the world of 1945, nonetheless, I very much welcome involvement by as many responsible players as possible, particularly countries from the South. If we want to have an international border that is based on equity and fairness we have to take into account not only the Western approach but also the perception of the South, in countries like Brazil, South Africa, all these countries which are emerging economic powers should also exert their soft-power and their influence in making sure that we have a world that is balanced and at peace with itself.”

–And, on the military option,

“it would be madness to attack Iran right now. As I have said before and continue to say now, it could turn the Middle East into a ball of fire, it would not resolve the Iranian issue but it would be an incentive and invitation for Iran—even if they are not working or developing the ambition to build a weapon—to develop a nuclear weapon. It could delay an Iranian nuclear program for a year or two but definitely they would come back with a clear mission of developing a nuclear weapon. When you bomb a country and dissolve its dignity, you should not be surprised if a country comes back and develops the most powerful weapon they could have. We should learn from history that humiliating a country, isolating a country is not a solution, in fact you empower the hard-liners. Of course, the implication of this for the rest of the Middle East I shudder to think of in terms of oil and instability. I hope that will never be an option seriously considered…adopting any military options would be a disaster.”

The complete interview follows below.

Jornal do Brasil: As you know, the debate over Iran’s nuclear program has taken some unexpected turns ever Iran agreed to a nuclear swap deal mediated by Brazil and Turkey in Tehran. One day after the announcement of this deal, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced that the Security Council had agreed on a draft resolution for sanctions against Iran. What is your interpretation of the Tehran Deal? Did it surprise you?

Baradei: No it didn’t surprise me at all because as you know, I have been working on this deal since last October, when I was the director-general of the atomic agency. It didn’t go through because there was reluctance by Iran at that time to ship the material out of Iran. It took quite a few months and interventions and the good offices of Brazil and Turkey to get Iran finally to agree to ship the material to Turkey out of Iran as a confidence building measure and to diffuse the crisis and give a chance for negotiation which is the key to the solution of the Iranian issue. So, I am not surprised at all, in fact I was quite pleased to see this deal come through by the good offices of Brazil and Turkey. I have been in contact even after I left office with both Celso Amorim and the Foreign Minister of Turkey encouraging them to continue their efforts. I was frankly not surprised that the offer came through, I was surprised at the reaction that some countries would continue to say that they want to apply sanctions, because, the Iranian issue, if you remove over half of the material that Iran has to Turkey, that is clearly a confidence-building measure regarding concerns about Iran’s future intentions. The material that will remain in Iran is under IAEA safeguards and seals. There is absolutely no imminent threat that Iran is going to develop the bomb tomorrow from the material that they have in Iran. In fact, it should be perceived as a first good confidence measure, a first effort by Iran to stretch its hand and say we are ready to negotiate. As you know, a few months ago, in September, Obama rightly said that he was ready to negotiate with Iran without preconditions. It took Iran quite a while because of the domestic political situation to reciprocate. Now they have reciprocated and I expected that offer would be picked up and should be the beginning of negotiations. Of course there are a number of other issues like why Iran continues to say that they are going to enrich up to 20%, because if they get the fuel for the reactor, then why are they going to continue? There is of course Security Council resolutions that say Iran should stop enrichment completely as a confidence building measure, but we all know that these issues can only be resolved through negotiations. The problem with Iran and the West is a question of confidence, which can only be built through negotiations. That is how you build gradual trust. That is how you built trust between Brazil and Argentina on the nuclear issue a ways back. But to say that we are going to apply sanctions nonetheless despite this deal, I think would be completely counterproductive. It’s always to me like not accepting yes for an answer. We know in negotiations that you will not get everything before the start of the negotiations. In fact, that insistence to get everything before you start negotiating, the result of that was six years of wasted time on resolving the Iranian issue. We wasted six years in the past because the Western approach was that Iran should give everything before the start of the negotiation. You get what you want as an outcome of the negotiation. You get something at the beginning, but you keep negotiating until you reach a deal. I hope that message will finally sink in that the people saying that we need to adopt sanctions will rethink their position because sanction in my mind is a dead-end street, it will lead to further confrontation and it will not in my view resolve the issue.

Jornal do Brasil: A little less than a year ago Obama made his famous Cairo speech in which he reached out to the Muslim world and said that “the cycle of suspicion and discord between the two worlds must end”. Do you think the American government’s current posture towards Iran indicates that Obama has backtracked from that message? Or is there a subtle divergence between Obama’s policies and Hillary Clinton’s policies?

Baradei: I’m not sure that this is a reversal of Obama’s commitment. I hope that is not the case. I also don’t think that the Iran issue is in a way representative of the US approach towards the Muslim world at large. As you know, there are some neighboring countries that are also concerned about the Iranian program so you should not generalize and say that the approach towards Iran reflects the approach towards the entire Muslim world. But there is suspicion, there is no question, and my worry is that if you go and adopt sanctions you will really get a major rift between the North and the South. If you have countries like Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, and the rest of the South on one side supporting an Iranian deal and pulling for negotiations and the West completely taking another view and saying let’s just go for sanctions, that rift has never materialized in my view and it would be quite dangerous that you continue to have a fault-line between the North and the South on an issue which we all know can only be resolved through negotiations.

Jornal do Brasil: In the past you have dismissed the notion of an attack on Iran and referred to the war in Iraq, where 70 thousand civilians died on the suspicion that the country had nuclear weapons. Do you fear that Israel is closer today to attacking Iran than it was a few years ago and what would be the probable consequences of an attack?

Baradei: I don’t think they are, I can’t read their intention but I hope they don’t because I think it would be madness to attack Iran right now. As I have said before and continue to say now, it could turn the Middle East into a ball of fire, it would not resolve the Iranian issue but it would be an incentive and invitation for Iran—even if they are not working or developing the ambition to build a weapon—to develop a nuclear weapon. It could delay an Iranian nuclear program for a year or two but definitely they would come back with a clear mission of developing a nuclear weapon. When you bomb a country and dissolve its dignity, you should not be surprised if a country comes back and develops the most powerful weapon they could have. We should learn from history that humiliating a country, isolating a country is not a solution, in fact you empower the hard-liners. Of course, the implication of this for the rest of the Middle East I shudder to think of in terms of oil and instability. I hope that will never be an option seriously considered. We have seen Iraq, as you mentioned. Iraq, under the false pretext of regime change, when after seven years, Iraq is a hotbed of instability, of suicide bombing. I saw yesterday a survey of livable cities. They rated over 200 cities. Baghdad came at the bottom of that list as the least inhabitable in the world because of all the instability and insecurity that exists there. So, the writing is on the wall that adopting any military option would be a disaster.

Jornal do Brasil: According to the IAEA’s last reports, inspectors have not found any evidence that Iran is diverting nuclear fuel or found a military aspect to its nuclear program. At the same time, they can’t really be sure because Iran has not signed the Additional Protocol, which would allow further inspections. Do you think the Iran threat is exaggerated?

Baradei: If you are saying that Iran will develop nuclear weapons tomorrow or that it is an imminent threat, I haven’t seen since I was in the agency six months ago any indication that Iran is working on an actual nuclear weapon. So, the idea of Iran as an imminent threat having nuclear weapons in the next month or two is totally exaggerated and I think that assessment is still shared by all the Western intelligence services. There is a fear about Iran’s future intentions, which as I said can only be resolved through negotiations and trust, but nobody is suggesting that Iran is on the brink of developing nuclear weapons. There are however concerns and certain allegations that Iran is doing some weaponization studies that because of the protocol we can’t verify certain allegations that came to the agency and which it would like to clarify. I am hoping that Iran will cooperate with the agency in as transparent a manner as possible and that also brings me to what you said. With sanctions of course you will not get that cooperation. If you start negotiating then at least you will open the door for Iran to clarify that its program is for peaceful purposes.

Jornal do Brasil: Do you think that the U.S. and other international players should be more tolerant of the growing involvement of emerging countries like Turkey and Brazil in international conflict mediation like the Iran nuclear swap deal?

Baradei: Absolutely. I think the international community should have as many responsible players as possible in every part of the world. Turkey is part of the Middle East so it is legitimate that Turkey should be involved in a conflict in Iran, which is its neighbor. Brazil is a major player right now in the world and should be an economic powerhouse but also a political powerhouse and should be involved. One of the issues still debated is that the Security Council is not representing the world of 2010, it’s still representative of the world of 1945, nonetheless, I very much welcome involvement by as many responsible players as possible, particularly countries from the South. If we want to have an international border that is based on equity and fairness we have to take into account not only the Western approach but also the perception of the South, in countries like Brazil, South Africa, all these countries which are emerging economic powers should also exert their soft-power and their influence in making sure that we have a world that is balanced and at peace with itself.

Jornal do Brasil: Have you confirmed your intention to run in the 2011 Egyptian presidential election? I know you have said in the past that certain conditions have to

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