A report that came out yesterday from the conservative Times of London has gotten the American right into a tizzy. The Times reported that longtime bogeyman for the right, Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, was negotiating a “secret” plan with Iran:
United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors. …The plan would require the UN Security Council to revoke the three existing sanctions and five resolutions ordering Iran to halt its uranium enrichment — an unthinkable development at a time when the West is focused on how to impose more, not fewer, sanctions on Iran.
Fox News profiled the story, Rachel Abrams of the Weekly Standard concluded that ElBaradei was a “collaborator with tyrants,” and John Hull writing in the Examiner papers concluded that “Elbaradei conspired with Iraq, as he is now doing with the Islamic Republic of Iran, to hide nuclear weapons from the infidels.” This comes a day after the IAEA released a report accusing the Iranians of misleading the agency over the extent of its nuclear program. A report, Julian Borger of the Guardian said, was “marked by the impatient and sceptical language that has become an increasingly regular feature of the agency’s Iran reports.” This is hardly the tone or the conclusions one would expect from an agency headed by a guy who collaborates with tyrants. But reality rarely matters when developing a conspiracy theory.
Furthermore, the Times story that they have all seized on seems highly dubious for a number of reasons.
First, this apparent “plan,” according to the Times, was put together in September – not November. But this would likely make the Times’ “plan” totally irrelevant, since the talks with Iran in Vienna that resulted in the current deal on the table took place in October. The IAEA has also denied the plan’s existence but if there ever was such a plan it was probably just one of the many possible plans being floated prior to the October meeting.
Second, any “secret deal” negotiated by ElBaradei with the Iranians would ultimately have to be agreed to by the U.S. and other powers – and lifting sanctions definitely won’t be agreed to.
Finally, if this draft plan is current, than none of this really make any sense. If the Times story is right that – “It was thought that Mr ElBaradei was anxious to secure his legacy after infighting over his perceived weakness in dealing with Iran” – then why would he be advancing a plan to remove sanctions that he knows would be dead in the water with the West and which would only serve to exacerbate his “perceived weakness” vis-à-vis Iran.
ElBaradei has been a constant target of the right. He entered their cross hairs after correctly assessing Iraq’s WMD programs and questioning Bush administration claims that a Saddam sponsored mushroom cloud was imminent. So despite the dubious nature of the Times’ claims, the right has grabbed hold of its conclusions and gone crazy with it.