Iran will not 'buckle' under pressure: IAEA chief

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei says diplomacy is the only way to solve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

He made the remarks in an interview published in the June 1 edition of Newsweek which was posted on its website on May 23.


Following are excerpts of the interview:


Q: President Barack Obama addressed a conciliatory video message to Iran two months ago, but the dialogue seems to have gone very quiet since then. Why do you think that is?


A: Obama does not talk “carrot and stick” —which, it’s been said, is a policy suitable for a donkey but not for a proud nation. He talks about mutual respect. And you have no idea, when he said for the first time, as an American president, “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” how well that was received by the Iranians. But that has not been followed up by negotiations because the Americans are going through a review of their policy. And the Iranians are not in a rush because they are going through an election and because, as very good bazaaris, they want to know the outcome of the (U.S.) review.


Q: The election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister has complicated matters. He’s left open the possibility Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.


A: Unfortunately, we have to keep saying what we have been saying for years (and being vilified for it by the neocons): there is no military solution. There is only a diplomatic solution. Israeli President Shimon Peres made the point that you cannot bomb the knowledge (of Iranian nuclear scientists). I wish that sort of thing had been said three years ago.


Q: Had the Bush administration been more flexible, do you think it could have had a deal to freeze the Iranian enrichment program in its experimental phases?


A: There is no way you are able to deny them the knowledge. But if they do not have the industrial capacity, they do not have weapons. It is as simple as that. I have seen the Iranians ready to accept putting a cap on their enrichment (program) in terms of tens of centrifuges, and then in terms of hundreds of centrifuges. But nobody even tried to engage them on these offers. Now Iran has 5,000 centrifuges. The line was, “Iran will buckle under pressure.” But this issue has become so ingrained in the Iranian soul as a matter of national pride. They talk about their nuclear program as if they had gone to the moon. And they also understood -- unfortunately, not wrongly -- that if you have the know-how, you’re still kosher within the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And yet you are sending a message: I can do this; I have bought myself an insurance policy, and you don’t want to mess with me.


Q: You focus on actual nuclear material. But the Americans have supplied the IAEA with the documents in question. The Iranians insist they are fake and refuse to talk about them.


A: A lot is in documents which we cannot share with the Iranians because of the need to protect sources and methods. Iran says, how can I tell you if it is fake or authentic if I am not getting a copy? So in many ways it’s like a merry-go-round.


Q: Tell me a little more about the Iranians’ bargaining style.


A: The Iranians have always been extremely well briefed on the details. They know what they want. They are excellent on the strategic goals, excellent on waiting for the right price. I don’t want to make them sound like superhumans; you do see a lot of infighting among them. And part of it is about who is going to get credit for finally breaking out of this 30 years of fighting and confrontation with the United States. Everybody is positioning himself to be the national hero who would finally put Iran back onto the world map as part of the mainstream. They are not like the stereotyped fanatics bent on destroying everybody around them. They are not.

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