What you should know about Mohamed ElBaradei

Amanda Carey Contributor
Font Size:

Mohammed ElBaradei – the Egyptian political figure joining forces with the Muslim Brotherhood to form a united opposition to President Hosni Mubarak – has a long and storied past with the United States.

A native of Egypt, ElBaradei has spent the last few decades outside the country, most recently serving as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009. Although he received a Nobel Peace prize in 2005 as head of the IAEA, it was during his tenure at that organization that ElBaradei had more than one public scuffle with the U.S. government.

In 2005, the U.S. was the only country to publicly oppose ElBaradei’s appointment to a third term as head of the IAEA. But while his ascension to the Egyptian presidency is far from assured, it’s not too soon to wonder how an ElBaradei-led Egypt would interact with the U.S., especially if history is any indication.

“The relationship with ElBaradei has not been an easy one,” Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told The Daily Caller, speaking about ElBaradei’s relationship with United States. “A number of his policies are very different from how American interests have been defined.”

ElBaradei’s uneasy relationship with the United States would likely be only heightened as a result of the organization he has chosen to join forces in opposition with, the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization’s leader has predicted the demise of the U.S. “The factors that will lead to the collapse of the U.S. are much more powerful than those that led to the collapse of the Soviet empire,” said Mohammad Badi, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The U.S. is now experiences the beginning of its end, and is heading toward its demise,” he added.

Here are three things TheDC thought you should know about ElBaradei:

1. He likes Iran. In a recent interview, ElBaradei told the Austrian media that he believed the threat of a nuclear Iran was exaggerated by the United States. According to ElBaradei, the U.S. began raising concerns in 2007, though Iran stopped its nuclear program a full four years earlier in 2003. “This assessment is still correct,” he said. Moreover, it’s because of the America’s “unrealistic demands” that a treaty has not yet been reached with Iran. ElBaradei’s defense of Iran has raised many eyebrows, most recently from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The group’s executive vice president, Malcolm Hoenlein, recently called the Egyptian a “stooge of Iran,” adding, “He fronted for them, he distorted reports.” John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, echoed those sentiments, telling CNN, “Mohamed ElBaradei is an apologist for Iran. He has taken positions in flat violation of three Security Council resolutions.”

2. He was no fan of the Iraq War. ElBaradei was a thorn in the Bush administration’s side during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Specifically, ElBaradei publicly (and loudly) questioned one claim the U.S. made in its case for invasion – that certain documents showed dealings between Niger and Iraq for uranium transfers. He called the documents unauthentic and wrote that the IAEA had “concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.”

3. He’s popular in the Middle East. “Mr. ElBaradei has found champions in the developing and Arab world,” wrote Danielle Pletka and Michael Rubin, both of the American Enterprise Institute in the Wall Street Journal in 2008. “They cheer his self-imposed mission – to hamstring U.S. efforts to constrain Iran’s program, whether or not the regime is violating its non-proliferation obligations or pursuing nuclear weapons.” According to the authors, ElBaradei also effectively turned a blind eye when Libya confessed to developing a nuclear weapons program in 2003. But it’s no surprise his stance on nuclear weapons would endear him to a Middle Eastern audience. Indeed, in a 2004 New York Times op-ed, ElBaradei wrote, “We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security.”