Current Chief of IAEA Releases Its Brakes on Rush to War With Iran

Yukio Amano“Amano’s director-generalship began under a bad star.”

That’s Julian Borger at the Guardian quoting Mark Hibbs, the journalist who helped take down the AQ Khan nuclear-weapons black market and is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Yukio Amano, the “head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog at the heart of the growing Iranian crisis,” Borger explains, “has been accused by several former senior officials of pro-western bias, over-reliance on unverified intelligence and of sidelining sceptics.”

Some of the controversy around Amano’s management dates to his election in 2009, when he narrowly beat Abdul Minty, a South African diplomat. [Hibbs said] “The election was extremely polarised and bitter. Minty clearly appealed to states who see themselves as underdogs and have-nots. Amano was supported by the US and others who saw him as rolling back the IAEA’s political aspirations under ElBaradei to a more technical agency.”

Previous director Mohamed ElBaradei was noted for his objections to IAEA findings being used as a pretext for ultimatums and/or war with Iran. Borger also reminds us of those WikiLeaks cables that confirmed suspicions about Amano almost too perfectly.

[They] revealed Amano’s assiduous courting of American support. In an October 2009 cable, the US charge d’affaires, Geoffrey Pyatt, wrote: “Amano reminded [the] ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the developing countries group], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Not sure of the exact motivations for Amano’s bootlicking, but there it is for the world to see. Confirming Amano’s toadyism toward the United States

… the IAEA’s reports on Iranian behaviour have become steadily more critical. In November, it published an unprecedented volume of intelligence pointing towards past Iranian work on developing a nuclear weapon, deeming it credible.

However, some former IAEA officials are saying that the agency has gone too far. Robert Kelley, a former US weapons scientists who ran the IAEA action team on Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, said. … “Amano is falling into the Cheney trap. What we learned back in 2002 and 2003, when we were in the runup to the war, was that peer review was very important, and that the analysis should not be left to a small group of people,” Kelley said. “… Just like [former US vice-president] Dick Cheney, Amano is relying on a very small group of people and those opinions are not being checked.”

Meanwhile …

Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund [said]: “On Iran, the difference is like night and day. ElBaradei constantly sought a diplomatic solution, while Amano wields a big stick and has hit Iran hard and repeatedly.”

And …

Jim Walsh, an expert on the Iranian nuclear programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said. … “Amano has been way out in front of the US on [holding Iran's feet to the fire]. … I think if the agency is going to be a neutral player in this — and we need a neutral player to make the sort of judgements that have to be made — it will have to be more conservative [than] the national governments on this.”

And …

Laban Coblentz, ElBaradei’s former speechwriter and a collaborator on [his book] The Age of Deception, said that huge stakes could rest on the nuances with which the IAEA director-general interprets the evidence. … “Amano and ElBaradei were looking at the same allegations. … The other thing that is the same is that so far the most substantial allegations have not been verified. What has changed is the willingness to publish those allegations that have not been verified as a tool to pressure the Iranians to come to the table.”

Compared to Dick Cheney, shamed by WikiLeaks, Yukio Amano is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. ElBaradei won the Nobel Prize; Amano is angling for the Ignoble Prize.