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This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in Forbes.com.
The most important thing gleaned from the report by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) circulated on Feb. 18, which states that Iran may indeed be bent on developing a nuclear bomb, is not new information about Iran. It is that for years the United Nations apparatus lied about what they knew and actively stood in the way of efforts to prevent the world's most dangerous regime from acquiring the world's most dangerous weapon.
The "confidential" report leaked to every news agency on the planet, is quoted as stating that on the basis of "extensive" and "credible" information the IAEA now has "concerns about the possible existence in Iran of ... current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile," and "concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
While Obama administration officials have attempted to spin the first report of IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who took over last December, as a U.N. achievement, the implications of the evident U.N. deceit cannot be overstated. After all, the organization has a choke hold on global imaginations. In 2005 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the IAEA and its then Director General Mohammed ElBaradei "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes." It is now clear that this occurred at the very same time that ElBaradei was engaged in what may well prove to be the most lethal cover-up in human history.
For almost a decade, the IAEA and its director general stalled for time on behalf of Iran, with reports feigning ignorance of Iranian designs while leaving an escape hatch should the IAEA's disguise as a non-proliferation agency be blown. In February 2006 ElBaradei reported: "Although the Agency has not seen any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, the Agency is not at this point in time in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran. The process of drawing such a conclusion ... is a time consuming process."
In August 2006 ElBaradei reported: "the Agency remains unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify the correctness and completeness of Iran's declarations with a view to confirming the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme." In January 2007, in the midst of growing calls for sanctions, ElBaradei suggested a "time-out." In July 2007 ElBaradei concocted a deliberately nebulous deal between the IAEA and Iran "on the modality for resolving the remaining outstanding issues." In September 2007, with stiffer sanctions on the horizon, ElBaradei again called for a "time-out." In January 2008 the IAEA reported: "ElBaradei has repeatedly noted that ... the IAEA has not seen any diversion of material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."
And on and on the reports and the carefully timed interviews went. The organization charged with stopping nuclear proliferation enabled it. This latest "revelation" should, therefore, be a shot heard round the world. Or at the very least, in the halls of Congress, where every year at least 5 billion American taxpayer dollars are directed to the United Nations in cash or in kind.
Last week's report did not see the light of day because the U.N. has turned over a significant new leaf. Rather, this is a desperate attempt by Amano to save the organization's hide. It is an indication that Iran's breakout as a nuclear power is so close at hand that the "watchdog" agency can no longer keep a lid on it.
The development does cast a new light, however, on ElBaradei's assessment of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has repeatedly taken the heat off Iran: muting criticism over the stolen elections, minimizing response to human rights violations, sidelining the plight of Iran's American hostages and treading water on sanctions for over a year. One particularly treacherous strategy has been to equate the urgency of nuclear disarmament--including by the United States--with nuclear non-proliferation. This inevitably delays progress on the latter. In the name of some perverse concept of fairness, the peril of a nuclear-armed United States and like-minded democracies is set off against the craving of non-democratic developing states to be equally armed. ElBaradei agreed with this strategy--as did the Nobel Committee.
Fellow honoree ElBaradei was therefore "absolutely delighted" at Obama's award. Perceiving the Obama-ElBaradei approach to have been applauded once again, he told reporters: "I could not have thought of any other person today that is more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama ... I think the [Nobel] committee understood fully, as they have done in 2005, that we really need to address the number one security threat we face in the world--which is to get rid of these inhumane weapons. And Obama has ... managed to put nuclear disarmament on the top of the international agenda ... That is something I think the committee, by giving him the prize today, has applauded and said 'you are doing the right thing; keep doing what you are doing.' Exactly the same message that they have sent to the IAEA in 2005 ... and myself."
Two Nobel Peace Prizes later, Iran is much closer to acquiring nuclear weapons and ElBaradei's days as U.N. proliferator-in-chief may not quite be over. On Friday, Feb. 19, he returned to his native Egypt and declared his interest in replacing President Hosni Mubarak in next year's elections. If he were to succeed, he will undoubtedly follow an Iranian bomb with a dash to achieve an Egyptian one, with the tried-and-true U.N. formula of non-discrimination and peace.