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Contentions

The Missing W

Something’s missing from the interview in the L.A. Times with Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Of the five journalistic W’s (when, where, what, who, why), the L.A. Times–or maybe it’s ElBaradei–has forgotten that a reason–a why–for the events outlined in a report is a must.

Thus, the L.A. Times gives us the When: “The chief of the world’s nuclear weapons watchdog organization considers five years of U.S. and international efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions a failure.”

The What comes from ElBaradei: “I think so far the policy has been a failure.”

The Where’s easy: “Reporting from Vienna.”

The Who: ElBaradei is “[t]he 66-year-old Egyptian diplomat and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.”

But why? Why was the effort to curb Iran’s nuclear program such a failure, and whose failure was it? This one gets a murky answer. “I think so far the policy has been a failure,” the IAEA chief says. But whose “policy”? Bush’s? ElBaradei doesn’t say yes or no: “To continue to pound the table and say, ‘I am not going to talk to you,’ and act in a sort of a very condescending way — that exaggerates problems.”

“Exaggerating” problems is not exactly the same as “causing” problems. Is it Bush’s reluctance to talk to Iran that is (conveniently) the reason for ElBaradei’s “failure”? Well, ElBaradei is willing to speculate some more:

[T]he sanctions may have led to “more hardening of the position of Iran,” ElBaradei said. “Many Iranians who even dislike the regime [are] gathering around the regime because they feel that country is under siege.”

So now we know: sanctions can’t do the job. Shunning Iran can’t do the job. Trying to figure out ElBaradei’s recipe for success with Iran all comes down to this: the IAEA failed because its strategy wasn’t polite enough. Iran’s still developing nuclear bombs–according to ElBaradei–because the world didn’t ask them nicely to stop. There’s the “Why” we were looking for.



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