Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has recently emerged as a leading figure in the Egyptian pro-democracy movement and a credible alternative to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
ElBaradei’s emergence has angered pro-Mubarak neoconservatives, such as Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, which is closely aligned with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. “There is a myth being created that ElBaradei is a human rights activist," Hoenlein told an Orthodox Jewish website on Sunday. “He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly. When he was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for which he got a Nobel Peace Prize, he fronted for them, he distorted the reports."
Hysterical rhetoric about ElBaradei is nothing new. The same people who were wrong about Iraq’s nonexistent WMD program are once again trying to distort his work, this time as a prominent dissident in Egypt.
Over at Firedoglake, Marcy Wheeler has an excellent recap of the past neoconservative smear campaign against ElBaradei. Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration pooh-poohed his warning that there was “no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq” and paid no attention to the fact that the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein was pursuing enriched uranium from Niger was based on forged documents, according to IAEA reporting. Despite the fact that almost everything ElBaradei said about Iraq turned out to be correct, the Bush Administration tapped his phone and led a major campaign to prevent him from leading for a third term at IAEA. Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that then–UN Ambassador John Bolton was “going out of his way to bad-mouth” ElBaradei. Nonetheless, ElBaradei was unanimously re-elected as IAEA chief in 2005 and, shortly thereafter, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his arms control work. “I don’t think we were effective in our campaign to oppose him,” Bolton later admitted.
Nonetheless, the neocons who wildly hyped and distorted military intelligence in Iraq were determined to once again undermine ElBaradei when it came to Iran’s WMD program. “Mohamed ElBaradei is an apologist for Iran,” Bolton said in 2007. Why did Bolton say this? Because ElBaradei has refused to endorse a US- or Israeli-led attack on Iran, much to the chagrin of neocon war cheerleaders. The former IAEA chief has publicly criticized the Iranian government for not cooperating sufficiently with his agency, but he’s also been careful to note that robust diplomacy is the ultimate solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff.