As for the efforts of ElBaradei to stop that sort of thing — forget about it. As head of the IAEA he behaved more like Iran’s man in Vienna. As I wrote in a 2011 article article on ElBaradei, he was “running interference for years against referral of of Iran’s nuclear program from the IAEA to the UN Security Council.” According to former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton, ElBaradei “frequently altered the reports of IAEA inspectors,” editing their findings in ways that “gave Iran every benefit of the doubt.” One of ElBaradei’s finals acts in his UN post, in the fall of 2009, was to make a visit to Iran. There he assured Iran’s despots that the IAEA had no interest in their missile program, and — evidently oblivious to the reasons for what were already three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions resolutions on Iran — he stated: “As I have said many times, and I continue to say today, the Agency has no concrete proof that there is an ongoing weapons program in Iran.” He flattered his Tehran hosts that after he retired as head of the IAEA, “I would be very happy to come here as many times as I can.” (Within months of ElBaradei’s retirement from the IAEA, his successor, Yukiya Amano, produced a report warning of signs that Iran might be working on “the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”)
Was ElBaradei’s fawning over Tehran nothing more than some isolated quirk of a democratic idealist? Not a chance. As I further noted in the article linked above, “Elbaradei’s hallmark was contempt for the world’s democracies, notably the U.S. and Israel; and an affinity for some of the world’s worst tyrannies, notably Iran, Syria and North Korea.” When North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, in 2006, ElBaradei oozed sympathy with totalitarian Pyongyang, calling its nuclear detonation “a cry for help.” When the Israelis in 2007 destroyed a clandestine nuclear reactor nearing completion in Syria and built with North Korean help, ElBaradei wrist-slapped Syria for not being more transparent. The harsh judgment he reserved for democratic Israel, accusing the Israeli government of breaking international law — though in truth, Israel with that strike on the Syrian reactor had done far more to protect the world from nuclear proliferation than anything ever done by Nobel laureate ElBaradei.
This is not the record of a democrat. True, ElBaradei called for and welcomed the overthrow in 2011 of Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak. But ElBaradei’s record over many years suggests that at best he is an opportunist who likes to choose from his own catalogue of despot-friendly policies and fictions. At worst, while piling up his international laurels in Oslo and Vienna, he behaved like a man in the pocket of some of the world’s worst dictators, who also happened to be collaborators with each other in rogue pursuit of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them — North Korea, Syria and Iran. That is not to accuse ElBaradei of breaking any UN rules or Austrian laws; it is quite bad enough that his own brand of honesty over the years has entailed sympathy and de facto support for some of the world’s most dangerous and repugnant regimes. Whatever ElBaradei might be saying these days, however fluent his English or prolific his photo-ops over the years with Western celebrities, could we please stop calling him a democratic idealist?