Since Mohamed ElBaradei retired from leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the end of 2009, the IAEA has made great strides toward an honest assessment of an Iranian nuclear program that is obviously hell bent on developing nuclear weapons. On Nov. 8, ElBaradei’s successor, Japan’s Yukiya Amano, delivered a devastating report to the IAEA board of governors. It details abundant signs that for years Iran has been working not only toward a supply of enriched uranium that could fuel nuclear warheads, but also on detonators, on missiles to deliver them, and on preparations for a nuclear test — in sum, widely sourced and credible information gathered by the IAEA “indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
All of which ought to be mortally embarrassing to ElBaradei, who, together with the IAEA that he ran, collected a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for “their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.” Even in 2005, this was a farce. In the face of alarming signs that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, ElBaradei down-played information he evidently had, leading to an official farewell in 2009, in which he visited Iran and —speaking from Iran — stressed that the IAEA had “no concrete proof that there is an ongoing weapons program in Iran,” and reassured Iran’s rulers that the IAEA did not view their missile program as “nuclear-related.” He added that in his post-IAEA capacity as a private citizen, he hoped to return often to Iran: “I would be very happy to come here as many times as I can.”
Perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize Committee had its own well-meant — albeit idiotic — reasons for awarding its prize in 2005 to a man whose chief accomplishment vis-a-vis nuclear proliferation was to help cover it up. But it sure looked like the Nobel judges were seeking some way to give a boost to a United Nations beleaguered that same year by massive evidence that its Iraq Oil-for-Food had been monstrously corrupt, that its procurement department had become home to a Russian kickback scheme, and that some of its peacekeepers in Africa had been raping children. At that stage, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was hardly a candidate for the prize. His 38th floor executive suite had been exposed as a nest of mismanagement, evasion, obfuscation and paper-shredding, presiding over assorted alleged bribe-takers and — to be generous — incompetents. Besides, Annan had already won a Nobel Peace Prize, in 2000. (Some of his brethren prize-winners are troubling enough to raise questions about whether the Nobel should be seen as any kind of honor at all — Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, etc. But there have also been some good winners. Let us assume, for the moment, that a Nobel still counts as a plus on a resume).
Anyway, whatever the reasons, ElBaradei emerged with a Nobel prize that increasingly looks like a very sick joke. What might be done about this? Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein writes in Il Giornale that in light of the latest IAEA report, the Nobel Committee ought to take back its prize from ElBaradei. Wishful thinking, but a great idea. And as long as we’re indulging in wishful thinking, I’d add one more suggestion. Were the Norwegian Nobel Committee worth its salt, it would take back its prize from ElBaradei, and re-award it jointly to the only two actors who during ElBaradei’s tenure at the IAEA made serious inroads against the proliferation of nuclear weapons: the U.S. military and the Israeli Air Force. The U.S. military for leading the force that overthrew Iraq’s mass-murdering tyrant Saddam Hussein and scared Libya’s mass-murdering tyrant Moammar Qaddafi in late 2003 into rendering up his A.Q. Khan nuclear kit; and the Israeli Air Force for its destruction in 2007 of a clandestine nuclear reactor which the Syrian government was building with North Korean help on the Euphrates River. Granted, that would be rough on ElBaradei. But maybe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be willing to give him a well-earned consolation prize, next time he makes one of his happy trips to Iran.