ElBaradei: Ample time to engage Iran on nukes

Israeli experts say IAEA head lacks reliable intelligence information.

ElBaradei 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
ElBaradei 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The international community has between two to five years in which to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN late Sunday. "There is ample time to engage [Iran] and reverse the concern and to move into more engagement rather than more isolation," he said. "There is a concern, but don't hype the concern," ElBaradei is quoted as saying in a Reuters report. Also Sunday, ElBaradei used a Washington Post interview to criticize the Bush administration for refusing to conduct a dialogue with the Iranian regime. He praised the Obama administration for its stated intention to conduct such a dialogue. But Israeli and visiting experts at the Herzliya Conference on Monday called into question ElBaradei's assertions. "As long as there isn't perfect transparency in the Iranian nuclear program, the determination announced by the IAEA can't be known," said Dr. Shmuel Bar, a 30-year veteran of Israeli intelligence and an expert in security and Islam at the IDC. "The difference between 10% enrichment and 20% enrichment of the uranium stockpile possessed by Iran is a halving of the time needed to produce a bomb," said Bar. "The IAEA's own assessment capabilities are limited to what Iran admits and what the IAEA is told. It doesn't even try to extrapolate an intelligence assessment. So how can it know what it is saying?" The IAEA chief's comments were "another indication of ElBaradei speaking out of school," said former US ambassador to the United Nations and frequent Iran critic John Bolton. "It's not ElBaradei's responsibility to say these things and he doesn't have nearly enough data to draw those conclusions. Also, he is ignoring at least five [UN] Security Council resolution demanding Iran halt enrichment immediately," Bolton added. The IAEA does not have reliable information on the Iranian program, agreed counterterrorism scholar Dr. Ely Karmon. "The IAEA itself has released reports - such as the last one in November - noting that Iran's nuclear program was farther along than its own previous estimates."