Former IAEA Chief Backs Diplomacy On Iran
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
We're going to hear now from someone who spent years engaged at the highest levels with Iran about its nuclear program. Mohamed ElBaradei stepped down in December after 12 years as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He joins us from Vienna. Welcome to the program.
Dr. MOHAMED ELBARADEI (Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency, Former): Thank you very much, Melissa, for having me.
BLOCK: We heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today saying of Iran, we don't want the engaging while they are building their bomb, saying that leaves the international community little choice but more sanctions. Do you agree with that?
Dr. ELBARADEI: Well, I'm not sure they are building a bomb. There is a concern, Melissa, that their program needs to be clarified. There are, as you know, concern that they have been doing some studies on how to develop a weapon. I'm not sure this is the case, but Iran need to engage substantively where is the international community to clarify this concern. It's a very frustrating situation, Melissa, frankly because it has been on again off again for many, many years. When the Iranian were ready to talk, the Bush administration was not ready to talk and there were certain condition Iran has to fulfill before they start their dialogue.
When Barack Obama is now ready to talk them they are into certain domestic hype of some sort inside Iran, and they are not a position to put their act together.
BLOCK: You said that you do not believe - you're not convinced that Iran is building, or has intentions to build a nuclear bomb. Iran is certainly concealed its intentions in the past. I mean, it had a whole uranium enrichment facility that was not disclosed until this past fall, which surprised everyone. What makes you so convinced that their intentions are not exactly that - to build a nuclear weapon?
Dr. ELBARADEI: I'm not convinced that they're entirely clean, Melissa. But as I said I'm not panicky because I haven't seen any concrete evidence that Iran is actually building a nuclear weapon. But the solution is to try to see how to get Iran to turn around and make good in what they say that this is a program for peaceful purposes. There's a lot of psychology there. It's at the end of the day, I believe that Iran was using the nuclear program as a mean to an end, which is to recognize Iran as a regional power. Whether they're doing it the right way, whether the West is responding the right way, there is a lot to be said about that.
BLOCK: Would you say that - what seems to be the harder tone, harder line coming from Secretary Clinton, would you say that is productive in trying to get Iran back to the table and away from these enrichments activities?
Dr. ELBARADEI: I would say that we need to use, you know, a harsh tone and a soft tone, you know, how we combined both, you know, is really the art of diplomacy, Melissa. I know that the U.S. and Barack Obama has been stretching a hand to them for almost a year now. I know it has been frustrating for the U.S. not to Iran to reciprocate but patience in such a difficult area is something I would continue to advise.
BLOCK: Dr. ElBaradei, you have been accused by your critics as having been too soft on Iran at the IAEA. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that you muddied the message to Iran. We're really engaging more in diplomacy than in the proper mission of nuclear safeguarding and verification. I wonder, as you look back on your time with the agency, did you do enough do you think? Did you pursue the right strategy to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power?
Dr. ELBARADEI: I think I did Melissa, everything I can within the authority I have. I don't have God's authority. I have a very limited authority and, you know, you cannot just go and give them order. You have to understand where they are coming from and you have to also try to provide them with incentive. And you cannot really separate diplomacy from verification. They are very much linked together as you see today.
BLOCK: And to those who would say that the time for dialogue and engagement is long past and that the only way to stop Iran would be through some kind of military intervention, you say what?
Dr. ELBARADEI: Well, I say that this is the way to Armageddon, you know. I say there is no military solution. I, you know, and I'm not the only one who's saying that. Secretary Gates said that couple of months ago, that maximum, if you use force you will delay the Iranian program for a couple of years, but then they will come back with a vengeance. You cannot bomb the knowledge. Iran could go easily underground if you will get every Iranian, even those who do not like the regime, rally around the regime policy. So, I don't see that to be a solution at all.
I don't think we have many option, Melissa, that's obvious. I mean the military is out. The sanction we have to be careful not to hurt the innocent and the civilians. But we have sometime maybe to use sanctions as we have been using. But continue to work with Iran to see what they are after, try to give them security assurance, try to give them the dignity or the role they would like to play, but also try to make sure that they change their behavior. And there's a lot of Iranian behavior that need to be changed.
But this is where we are. I wish I have an 'easy solution for you, but all I know that that we should not isolate Iran. We should not only use sanction, we should try to be creative. We should try to engage the entire international community in a way that make Iran turn around and understand that it will be in a much better position to integrate itself with the international community through a policy of transparency and constructive engagement.
BLOCK: I have been speaking with Mohammed ElBaradei who stepped down in December as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thanks very much.
Mr. ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, Melissa.
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