Mohamed El Baradei, the I.A.E.A., and the Nobel Peace Prize

Mohhamad El Baradei

Mohhamad El Baradei, director general of International Atomic Energy Agency. (Photo: Attila Kisbenedek / AFP-Getty Images)

Mohamed El Baradei, together with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which he heads, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for working to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

“The Nuclear Nobel”

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail (Centrist), Oct. 10: Despite all the talk about non-proliferation in the past few years, the international regime for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons is still woefully weak. Only the United States has made non-proliferation a real focus of its foreign policy. Others merely tag along. If the Nobel Peace Prize helps make the international community work together on this urgent issue, the motives for giving it to Mr. El Baradei will be irrelevant. You don't have to look far to see how urgent the task is … Yet when world leaders gathered en masse in New York last month to discuss reforming the U.N., they failed completely to take any new steps on non-proliferation. Last spring's review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.) was a bust, too. More than 30 countries have failed to sign safeguard agreements with the I.A.E.A. that would constrain their ability to build or trade nuclear weapons and their components. Much, much more must be done.

“Premature Nobel Prize”

JERUSALEM — The Jerusalem Post (Conservative), Oct. 10: The Nobel Committee, it seems, wishes to continue its record of going out on a limb, encouraging those it hopes will succeed, rather than most awards, which recognize success after the fact. Such was the case, of course, with the ill-fated Nobel Prize granted to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yasir Arafat for the Oslo Accords. Is this another case of wishful thinking, of placing bets on misguided process that is headed for failure? Even as this question hangs in the air, however, there is a sense in which this prize can be seen as advancing the cause of a safer world: it is a powerful vote for the principle that Iran's bomb must be stopped … [For] if Iran, the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, is allowed to have nuclear weapons then the entire non-proliferation edifice will collapse, like a dam with one too many cracks.

“I.A.E.A. Honor Sends a Clear Message to Nuclear Powers”

TOKYO — The Asahi Shimbun (Center-left), Oct. 8: While the Nobel Prize can be taken as a pat on the back for the I.A.E.A. and its work to date, the honor should also be viewed as a way to seek international cooperation to eliminate the agency's weaknesses so as to bolster the inspection system … The N.P.T. allows five nations — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — to possess nuclear weapons, but strictly prohibits others from doing so. Nuclear-free countries support the N.P.T. because the nuclear powers have promised to disarm. Yet nuclear disarmament is not moving ahead very quickly. Unless the nuclear powers fulfill their promises, the anti-proliferation framework will weaken even further. The Nobel Peace Prize is a reminder of that.

“Nobel Rewards Failure”

LONDON — The Daily Telegraph (Conservative), Oct. 8: The joint award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) and its Egyptian director general, Mohamed El Baradei, is a classic case of wishful thinking. In its citation, the Norwegian committee states that the agency's work is of “incalculable importance.” In an age when nuclear proliferation has become a Sword of Damocles, it should be. But for the past 15 years, the I.A.E.A. has proved inadequate to the task … It is to the director general's credit that, before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he resisted the fantasies of Tony Blair and George W Bush about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. However, to hear him yesterday talking of the agency as a “caring mother” rather than a “watchdog” was to realize how far it had fallen short of its objectives.

“Nobel for Integrity”

JIDDA — Arab News (Pro-government), Oct. 8: As head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog … [Mohamed El Baradei] has had a tough time, not simply in the agency’s dealings with North Korea and Iran, but from the Americans, who opposed his reappointment … His sin in Washington’s eyes was that, as America prepared to invade Iraq, he said clearly he did not believe that Saddam’s regime still had nuclear weaponry. As one of the few people in a position to know this, his intervention was an unwelcome contradiction of the grounds for invasion. History proved Baradei right and the Bush White House never forgave him. He only won another term because the Americans recognized the political cost of resisting his nomination … Baradei’s award is, however, about a lot more than his challenge to the U.S. It is about the very serious risks of the proliferation of nuclear weapons … Baradei’s award recognizes the steps toward peace that it [the I.A.E.A.] has already taken and anticipates successes to come. It is richly deserved.