Thursday, January 18, 2007

Can They Revoke A Peace Prize?

Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, announced today that sanctions placed last month on Iran for its continued violations of UN and IAEA rules are a bad idea. The sanctions, imposed by the UN Security Council banned transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and know-how to Iran and established a 60-day deadline for Iran to halt nuclear fuel work or else face the possibility of increased punishment. However, according to ElBaradei "I don't think sanctions will resolve the issue. I think sanctions, in my view, could lead to escalation on both sides."

This is an absolute disgrace and amounts to little more than appeasement. Iran's violations of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations are numerous and well-documented. All five members of the UN Security Council supported the sanctions, which is as rare as a political event can be. The five UNSC members along with Germany have long been offering a generous incentive package to Iran on the condition that it suspends its uranium enrichment program. And yet ElBaradei sees fit to undermine the UN by drawing some kind of moral equivalency in the two positions: "My worry right now is that each side is sticking to their gun if you like. The international community is sticking to their gun, saying 'sanctions or bust'. Iran is saying 'nuclear enrichment capability or bust'." Meanwhile, ElBaradei has openly agreed with John Negroponte, the former head of US National Intelligence and currently awaiting confirmation as Deputy Secretary of State, that Iran will likely be capable of producing a nuclear weapon in 4-7 years.

Peace is not about giving in. As Europe learned in the 1930s, it's not about appeasing rogue states (and no, I'm not comparing Iran to Nazi Germany). Sometimes the cause of peace requires making judgments about good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes it even requires going to war. ElBaradei's comments and subversion of the UN do not contribute to peace. Rather, they create incentives for Iran to continue to ignore the unanimous will of the international community. I don't believe that the UN will necessarily be able to solve this crisis. In fact, it may not be possible to prevent Iran from proliferating. But when the UN can unite behind something it should be given a chance to work. If the UN is to have any meaning in maintaining international peace and security, it must become tougher and more willing and capable of implementing sanctions on those that violate the will of the international community. ElBaradei is simply ensuring the UN continues to be a weak institution doomed to be ignored by those it seeks to restrain. One can only wish that his Nobel Peace Prize could be revoked.


stefan moluf said...

I don't know if I agree with you on this one, Seth. I could care less about ElBaradei and his comments, but I too have a bad feeling about economic sanctions on Iran.

With a military option looking both ferociously expensive in blood and coin and likely ineffective, it seems to me that the United States' "big gun" in this case is the infiltrating power of our culture via economic engagement.

Now, I absolutely agree that we have to keep Iran in check militarily (not to mention diminish its influence in the greater Middle East), and I absolutely agree that we need the support of our allies in this effort. But I'm worried that sanctions over this issue are a shot in the foot.

Seth Weinberger said...


I don't think, as I mentioned in the original post, that sanctions are likely to work. But, I don't see what other options there are. Military force doesn't seem to be viable for a number of reasons (US overextension, too many hardened targets, regime entrenchment), and Iran doesn't seem to want anything in the form of incentives from the EU or the US. So what else can be done? I believe deterrence will likely contain Iran, but I'd still rather that Iran not proliferate. Furthermore, I find it particular disturbing that a UN official is undermining the work of his own institution. It just confirms the suspicions that the UN is a weak institution, incapable of dealing with serious security problems.

stefan moluf said...


I'm pretty sure we're in about 96% agreement here, the only thing I'm concerned about are nonmilitary sanctions. The key word there being "nonmilitary."

You and others have pointed out the power of globalization in reshaping the political landscape of repressive and illiberal government. With a lack of other options in Iran, it seems to me that pursuing economic engagement (complemented with a rigorous and determined campaign of military and political isolation) is the best option to enact long-term, positive change in Iran while preserving security in the region. Nonmilitary economic sanctions seem like exactly the wrong move in that context.

You are so right about the UN, though. First Kofi Annna apologizes for not stopping the U.S. from eliminating the Hussein regime, and now ElBaradei... if the UN didn't possess such a huge portion of international political legitimacy it would be funny.