Most people think of the International Atomic Energy Agency as "the world's nuclear inspectorate" - verifying that civilian nuclear activities "are not used for military purposes" and working 24/7 to stem the spread of nuclear weapons. Sometimes, though, to hear its director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, talk, you might think the IAEA's paramount mission was to promote pacifism. The IAEA got Iraq right in 2003. And just last month, ElBaradei admitted Iran had failed to "provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities." That's bureaucratese for: Iran is being deceptive and opaque and we, the IAEA, can't attest that they're not moving full speed ahead on building a bomb. The Egyptian-born ElBaradei, 66, is a lawyer by training. He's lately been thinking about retiring to the south of France. His comments on Iran are invariably lawyerlike; sufficiently wide-ranging so that no one could plausibly accuse him of looking the other way as the Iranians build a bomb. Indeed, he shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his non-proliferation work. ElBaradei will say that he cannot exclude the possibility that there are "military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program." He's complained - well, "complain" may be too harsh a characterization; he's noted - that Iran has not been transparent to "the extent to which information contained in the relevant documentation is factually correctâ€¦." But ElBaradei thinks the Iranians have been shabbily treated - they have not even been allowed to see the raw intelligence data that opponents of their nuclear program have accumulated. He's done his best to assure them that his "Agency does not in any way seek to intrude into Iran's conventional or missile-related military activities." Heaven forbid. In 2007, ElBaradei said that the world would soon know if Iran was acting in good faith. Last month he remained "confident" that the IAEA would be able to figure out Iran's intentions. BUT on Saturday, he told The Los Angeles Times that his confidence is now shaken. "We haven't really moved one inch toward addressing the issues. I think so far the policy has been a failure." ElBaradei didn't mean to say that the international community should ramp up the sanctions regime. To the contrary, he argues that the comparatively mild embargo now in place is "hardening" Iranian intransigence. ElBaradei's policy prescription is for the US to concentrate on Iran's grievances - some dating back to the 1950s - and not obsess over Teheran's quest for the bomb. He favors a "grand bargain" between the West and Iran: The mullahs will promise not to carry through the final steps of making a bomb, and Washington will provide its imprimatur to the regional hegemony of the Islamic Republic, granting it "the power, the prestige, the influence" it craves. Last year, ElBaradei warned against even thinking about the use of force as a last resort. On Sunday he expressed reservations about economic or diplomatic pressure, let alone draconian sanctions. THE IAEA/Euro-liberal consensus is that Iran should certainly not acquire nuclear weapons. But at the same time, nothing tangible is recommended that would thwart Teheran's extremist Shi'ite ideology, Holocaust-denial or sponsorship of terror. It comforts Euro-Liberals to make believe that Iran is weighing the civilized world's freeze-for-freeze offer: Iran halts the installation of new centrifuges, while the UN Security Council "eases up" on further sanctions. But the EU has been negotiating with Iran for years to no avail, and even the Bush administration has held dozens of meetings with Teheran. Still, Euro-Liberals envision the mullahs swooning once they're "engaged" by the Obama administration. They say, moreover, just wait until after the June 2009 Iranian presidential elections, when, maybe, a "moderate" like Ali Larijani or even Muhammad Khatami will take over from the uncouth Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But no one is suggesting that either of them would part with a single centrifuge. So it's no to sanctions, no to force, and no to opposing dual-use centrifuge technology. What's left? Trusting the mullahs that if the international community goes along with their hegemonic demands and never mentions "regime change," Teheran will stop - just short of constructing a bomb. Cynics might think that Mr. ElBaradei and the Euro-libs want to paint Jerusalem into a corner.