Los Angeles Times: Mohamed ElBaradei's confirmation Monday for a third term as head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency was a welcome move, keeping a strong leader at the helm of one of the world's most important organizations. It also might be a preview of coming attractions if John Bolton is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bolton has long been opposed to ElBaradei and is believed to have been behind a yearlong effort by the U.S. to replace him. That campaign was abruptly dropped last week after administration officials failed to persuade any U.S. allies to back his ouster; ElBaradei was reconfirmed by acclamation by the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors.
Bolton and other neoconservatives don't like ElBaradei because, among other things, they think he's too soft on Iran. The 62-year-old Egyptian favors the European approach, which is to negotiate with Iran and offer it incentives to give up a nuclear weapons program that Iran claims it doesn't have (the U.S. strongly believes otherwise). ElBaradei has urged Iran to allow inspections and criticized the U.S. for making assertions without evidence and failing to take part in the European negotiations.
ElBaradei is right on both counts -- just as he was three years ago in the run-up to the Iraq war, another sore spot for the neocons. He consistently urged a diplomatic rather than military approach to Iraq and was skeptical of U.S. claims about its nuclear weapons program. The fact that no evidence has emerged of any such program gives added weight to ElBaradei's current stance on Iran. The fact that he is a Middle Eastern-born Muslim at a time of deep confrontation between Western nations and the Muslim world, and his long experience in the field of nuclear nonproliferation, also make him ideal to head the U.N. agency.
ElBaradei's return might be Bolton's first major diplomatic defeat since President Bush nominated him, but if he's confirmed, it won't be his last.