IAEA chief’s career shows why the nuclear agreement is not about George Bush
ElBaradei got into serious trouble for his integrity and professionalism, when the US tried to prevent him from getting a third term at the helm of the IAEA in 2005. Given the widespread support to his candidature for a rare third term as the head of an international agency, the Bush administration had to swallow its pride and allow his unanimous re-election.

More recently, ElBaradei found himself at odds with the US once again when he publicly counselled against imposing new sanctions on Iran and pointed to the prospect of greater cooperation between Tehran and the IAEA. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, responded angrily by saying that the IAEA should not meddle in the ‘business of diplomacy’ and limit itself to technical judgments.

When Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, talked about going to war to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, ElBaradei dismissed it as just ‘hype’.

Before you jump to the conclusion that ElBaradei is some kind of an ‘anti-imperialist’ crusader and a near victim of US hegemony, think again. In July 2005, when President George W. Bush signed the declaration on the civilian nuclear initiative with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ElBaradei was among the first international leaders to welcome it.

Coming from the very heart of the global non-proliferation system, the IAEA, ElBaradei’s enthusiasm has been critical in mobilising international support for the Indo-US nuclear deal. For ElBaradei, it was not a question being ‘anti’ or ‘pro’ Washington on nuclear issues. As on Iraq and so on India, ElBaradei has chosen to go by the merits of the issue at hand rather than considerations of political correctness of the moment.

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