What Would We Do Without the IAEA?

In the Wall Street Journal L. Gordon Crovitz praises the American withdrawal from UNESCO. He goes over a litenany of awful things that UNESCO did while the USA was not a member. He even inexplicably blames UNESCO for the fact that an apparently racist Egyptian guy lost election to become UNESCO’s director general.

But then he goes on to note that the real issue isn’t UNESCO, but the IAEA’s failure to stare down Iran.

Unesco is a caricature of a politicized U.N. agency. Now eyes are returning to the IAEA, which is expected, perhaps, finally to warn that Iran is closer to nuclear capability.

Iran has kept U.N. inspectors away from its suspect facilities for years. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said earlier this year that “Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” This phrasing is convoluted even by U.N. standards of doublespeak, but the result is that Iran has been left free to pursue its nuclear program.

Unesco is a reliable reminder that there is little accountability for U.N. actions or inactions. We can be amused by the antics of an agency like Unesco that has no serious duties. It’s harder to be as sanguine about the IAEA. History teaches that matters of life and death are too important to be delegated to the U.N.

It’s curious that he seems to be blaming UN inaction for Iran’s breakout nuclear capabilities...as reported in a bombshell UN report.  The IAEA isn’t an “action” oriented body. They don’t sanction or bomb or anything like that.  Rather, the IAEA is a watchdog. They research and collect information about nuclear activities around the world, then present that research in dispassionate reports to the international community.

This is what makes them valuable in situations like this. If the USA reported what the IAEA will report about Iran this week, other countries might look at the conclusions with a healthy degree of suspicion. Like it or not, the IAEA stamp–as opposed to the CIA stamp–carries a lot more weight with the Chinas, Russias, and Brazils of the world.

The IAEA report puts the ball in the international communities’ court. Or, more precisely, the IAEA’s Board of Governors (of which the USA is a member–at least, until Palestine is admitted to the IAEA and the USA pulls its funding. But that is another story). What they chose to do with this information is up to them.