In the midst of escalating tensions between the US and Iran, IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei has become a somewhat controversial figure. The Washington Post recently published a highly critical editorial that labeled him a “rogue regulator”:
For some time Mohamed El-Baradei, the Egyptian diplomat who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, has made it clear he considers himself above his position as a U.N. civil servant. Rather than carry out the policy of the Security Council or the IAEA board, for which he nominally works, Mr. ElBaradei behaves as if he were independent of them, free to ignore their decisions and to use his agency to thwart their leading members — above all the United States.
The New York Times published a somewhat more sympathetic portrayal of him today, calling him an “indispensable irritant”:
Dr. ElBaradei, who is 65, seems unfazed, even energized, by all the dissent. He alludes to a sense of destiny that has pressed him into the role of world peacemaker. He has called those who advocate war against Iran “crazies,” and in two long recent interviews described himself as a “secular pope” whose mission is to “make sure, frankly, that we do not end up killing each other.”
He added, “You meet someone in the street — and I do a lot — and someone will tell me, ‘You are doing God’s work,’ and that will keep me going for quite a while.”
As Iran continues to pursue nuclear technology and the US government refuses to negotiate directly without preconditions, it is critical to have voices in favor of caution, deliberation and diplomacy.