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Paul C. Warnke Lecture on International Security: A World Free of Nuclear Weapons: Illusion or Possibility

Author: Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council On Foreign Relations
November 4, 2009, New York.
Council on Foreign Relations

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RICHARD N. HAASS: If people would take their seats; if they would conclude their conversations. Great.

Well, good afternoon. I'm Richard Haass, and I want to welcome everyone to the Council on Foreign Relations. Today's meeting, which happens to be on the record, is the annual Paul C. Warnke lecture on international security. Paul, as I expect all of you know, some from personal experience, some from having read about him, was many things. And among them, he was the head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was also the chief U.S. negotiator for the SALT talks -- and for those of you under the age of 40, that's the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks -- (laughter) -- during the Carter years.

He was also a leading voice and, to be direct about it, a critic about our policy during the Vietnam War. He was a member of this organization for more than three decades, and he was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations board for five of those 31 years.

And it's a personal pleasure not simply to do this in recognition of all that Paul contributed to the Council on Foreign Relations and to this country, but it's great to have four members of his family here. And I just want to say personally how pleased we are to see you all. So thank you for coming.

It's entirely appropriate that this event is named for Paul. Here we are at the Council. This event is taking place not in a vacuum but amidst an intense debate about what the United States should do in Afghanistan. And many people have drawn certain parallels, apt or otherwise, to the Vietnam War. And we're meeting here just weeks before the START treaty, the successor set of treaties to the SALT treaties, is set to expire.

What makes it even more appropriate, or actually better than appropriate, or makes it ideal, is that today's speaker is Mohamed ElBaradei. Dr. ElBaradei is really one of this era's, I believe, great international public civil servants. He's given a quarter of a century, more than some 25 years of his life, to the International Atomic Energy Agency; roughly half of those -- 12 years, if my math is right -- as its director. And he and his organization were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

I should admit conflict of interest. He and I have worked together quite closely over the years. And as you can tell, I am not a disinterested observer. I am an admirer.

We catch Mohamed ElBaradei at an interesting moment, which is, he's about to step down as director of the IAEA in about four weeks, the end of November. So today is an opportunity for us here to get him to reflect on what was, on what might have been, and what might be.

The scenario is that we will have a brief conversation here, which I promise to let you all in on. And then, once we've got him warmed up, I'll pass the baton to you, to the membership, to ask him the tough questions.

I only ask, for the time being, that you shut off your electronic devices -- your telephones, your BlackBerrys and the like. There's no reason to be in touch with the world for the next hour. The election results are in and the World Series does not resume -- the last game of the World Series -- (laughter) -- does not resume for six hours.

QUESTIONER: Seven.

HAASS: Seven hours, excuse me. Easy, easy. Okay, now that I've alienated half the crowd, it's time to start.

Mohamed, if, 25 years ago, when you began at the IAEA, or 12 years ago, when you became its director, if you had been sitting here or some other like situation and someone had then, say, 25 years ago in particular, described the world that we now find ourselves in, of nine states with nuclear weapons and another, Iran, clearly flirting with some version of the idea, what would have been your reaction at the time? Would you have said that sort of an image of the world 25 years hence, too positive, too negative? Would you have said, "Great, if that's what it looks like, I'll take it"? Or would you have said, "No, we could do better than that"? This kind of human thinking of it.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI: Well, thank you, Richard. Let me first say it's a pleasure for me and an honor to be here and to celebrate the memory of Paul Warnke as a great statesman and leader in the area of security. Thank you also for your very kind words, Richard.

As to your question, I definitely would say we could have done better. There's no question about it. I mean, we have not done good at all in the last 25 years. If we look at our security system, you know, it's in tatters. You know, we continue to live in a world which unfortunately, no matter what you say, if you have nuclear weapons or if you have the nuclear capability to have weapons, you have power, prestige and insurance policy. That is the bottom line, you know.

If you look at how North Korea has been treated, compare that with Iraq, that's a lesson that has not passed on anybody who is observing the world. We still do not understand now, you know, that now -- you know, the linkage between governance, poverty, development and security. You know, we have 2 billion people who still live under $2 a day, and it's still one-third of humanity. And it's still a fiction to think we will have security with that kind of imbalance in distribution of human resources.

Technology is out of the tube. Nuclear technology is out of the tube, as we have seen through A.Q. Khan, a very sophisticated network, that now it is not a question of arms control. It is a question of "Do I need to develop nuclear weapons?"

More complicated also is that many countries have decided, "Well, we don't need to develop nuclear weapon. It's enough to develop the capability -- you know, the enrichment capability or re-processing capability, because if I have that, I can develop nuclear weapon in matter of weeks."

That is a very intelligent and kosher way of doing things, you know, because, you know, you're still within -- called a non-nuclear-weapon state, but you're sending the message to your neighbors, to the rest of the world, "Don't mess up with us because we have that."

So we have a security system in the form of the United Nations -- supposedly, a collective-security system that does not work. You know, it's on again, off again, depending on your luck, depending on the configuration on the issue. So you have, you know, conflict that has been going on for generations, if I look at the Middle East, if I look at the Kashmir issue, if I look at the Korean issue. And things do not improve by time. They fester. They get from bad to worse.

So we still have elite countries, the so-called people who are living either the nine nuclear-weapon states, Richard, or the people who live under the so-called umbrella, nuclear umbrella, around 30 countries. I was in Brussels recently and they invited me to discuss the strategic concept of NATO. And I was absolutely horrified. I mean, if you read that concept, it says, "The nuclear weapon is the supreme guarantee for our security. It's essential to preserve peace. It prevents any kind of war." And I told them, "Well, if I read that, I will go out of the door and develop nuclear weapons." So you can't have a system that is based on the haves and have-nots.

In this time and age, it is not sustainable. Sorry I'm going for so long, but the short answer, we could have done much, much better.

We ended up also with a war that's based on completely false pretext, the Iraq war, where 1 million people lost their lives, innocent civilians. We could have been any one of them. Three million people got maimed, according to CNN. Four million people got displaced. One out of every three Iraqis got his life pulverized. Is that the price are we going to pay for regime change or dealing with somebody who is considered to be evil?

These are some of the issues we need to discuss. I don't have ready-made solution. North Korea, I might add for good measure. I mean, North Korea was -- again, 16 years ago was suspected in 1992 that they might have some undeclared gram or kilogram of plutonium. Then we stopped talking to them. We have an agreed framework. Things were working. There was a time line all the way from North Korea to get back to the NPT. Basically, we were buying them off at that time, you know.

That stopped. And now North Korea, having 16, 17, you have nuclear weapons. So not talking to people, thinking that, you know, I shouldn't talk to people I disagree with, and not understanding that dialogue is the only way to change behavior, has led us to where we are -- a total mess. (Laughter.)

HAASS: All righty, then. (Laughter.) Something tells me you were looking forward to this. (Laughter.)

So I'm going to discard the questions I thought of asking and we're going to take this down a different path. Three immediate questions come to mind. I'll ask one at a time.

Among other things, in about, what, 10 days -- not even; a week -- we are going to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, 20 years since the end of the Cold War. The Cold War itself was a 40-odd-year experience.

What about the argument that nuclear weapons help keep the peace? What you just said was extraordinarily critical of nuclear weapons, yet isn't the history of the Cold War in part the history of how nuclear weapons kept it cold and prevented it from getting hot, unlike the first two great-power competitions of the 20th century?

ELBARADEI: Richard, it could have during the Cold War time, and that's a different discussion one can argue. But as you mentioned, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, why do we have 23,000 warheads? Why do we still, as some now will tell you, have nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, that Barack Obama will have half an hour to respond to a reported nuclear attack, which could be a computer error, which could be unauthorized, and with it, the rest of our world will go in tatters? I mean, it could have during the Cold War.

The Cold War, there was a different structure. It was two big major powers. But I fail to see the reason why we continue not only to rely on nuclear weapons, but even increase our reliance on nuclear power, but then to brag about nuclear weapons.

If you see some of the statements of the last couple of years, in Europe in particular, you know, Tony Blair saying that we can use it against, you know, terrorists; in France, I think Chirac at that time said also, you know, there are situations where we can use nuclear weapons. There was request here to research on mini-nukes, bunker busters.

So not only, you know, it was moving from just being a deterrence, as it was in the Cold War, to a weapon that actually can be used. And with all of that, you know, then we had this whole ghost that's, you know, overlooking all of us, which is nuclear terrorism; you know, that with all these weapons, with all this radicalization, the major threat we are facing is probably not that Iran is -- (inaudible) -- threat. It is a nuclear terrorist group getting hold of nuclear weapon because if they do, the whole concept of deterrence is totally irrelevant.

And that's, I think -- in my view, that's what got people like (George Shultz ?), Kissinger, Perry, now to become an (apostates ?) of nuclear disarmament. I mean, I was sitting with Kissinger last February in Munich at the Munich security conference, in the same panel, preaching nuclear disarmament. And I have to, you know, pinch myself -- (laughter) -- to believe that Henry Kissinger now is one of the people who are preaching nuclear disarmament. And that's not, in my view, out of a sense of idealism. It's just a sense of realism, that keeping the status quo is threatening us more than protecting us.

HAASS: The problem is, with every one of your answers, my questions multiply.

You made an impassioned case, Mohamed, for dialogue and the fact that implicitly criticizing the United States for not talking to certain countries over the last decade -- obviously Iran and North Korea you had in mind -- how do you guard against the possibility that countries will use dialogue as a tactic, essentially to buy time for covert nuclear projects?

ELBARADEI: Well, dialogue is not dialogue for dialogue's sake, Richard. I mean, dialogue has to have a beginning and an end. It has to be accompanied by robust verification. It has to be understood that -- you know, that dialogue is meant to reconcile differences. But without the dialogue, I fail to see what else do we have.

I mean, we have tried sanctions, and not the greatest kind of sanctions. I've seen -- in the name of sanctions, we committed egregious violation of human rights in the name of human rights. I mean, if you look to Iraq during Saddam Hussein, Saddam was a horrible dictator, but the people who died as a result of sanctions -- the elderly, the innocent, the vulnerable -- and, in fact, sanctions make some of these dictators make money out of it.

HAASS: I might disagree with you on that, only because, as one of the people who designed it, the sanctions regime, I don't believe it was the sanctions that did it. I believe it was Saddam's reaction to it and manipulation of them. From the get-go, the sanctions were designed with Iraq to allow humanitarian supplies to flow in.

ELBARADEI: Richard, that could be. But the net result, that a lot of people, a lot of innocents, a lot of vulnerable, got hurt, died as a result of this regime, which I agree, I mean, of course, manipulated by a horrible dictator. But sanction does not lead to a solution. I mean, it leads to more confrontation. War is not the end -- as we have seen, it's not the solution either. I mean, you have to use all the tools. But to me, the most important tool is a dialogue, understanding where the people are coming from, and trying to find, you know, how to reconcile differences.

HAASS: I don't think I'm misquoting you. Early on, I think you used the phrase -- and it was in the context of North Korea -- about the perverse effect of nuclear weapons. So let's talk about that a little bit. One could look at North Korea, as opposed to Iraq, and say, "Gee, the country that got invaded was the country that didn't have nuclear weapons. The country that didn't get invaded, North Korea, is the country with nukes. Plus North Korea is getting a lot of attention. It is potentially getting relief from sanctions."

How do you then guard yourself against what might be the perverse effect of nuclear weapons? Because one could look at North Korea and argue nuclear weapons are a pretty smart path to go down.

ELBARADEI: Well, I think the starting point -- and again, sometime we need to address the overall environment, Richard -- the starting point that the weapon states, primarily the U.S. and Russia, should commit themselves, as they have done in 1970, under the Nonproliferation Treaty, that we are on the way out of nuclear weapons.

I mean, that only happened in the last six months with Barack Obama really seriously committing himself to the nuclear weapon. And I said last month at that Security Council summit in New York, only then a country like the U.S. will have the moral authority to go after the North Koreas of the world and say, "We are fulfilling our obligation not go to -- to get rid of nuclear weapon, not to rely on nuclear weapon, and you have to implement your part of the deal."

But you cannot continue to say, "Well, I'm developing our mini-nukes, but you cannot touch nuclear weapons because that's dangerous." I mean, you have to create an environment by which, in my view, ultimately, nuclear weapon is regarded the way we regard slavery or genocide. It's a taboo. One should not think of it. You can have your differences. You can have your fights. But we should not have fights that could engage the annihilation of our own civilization.

HAASS: Let me challenge that, because I know that's a prevalent and strong argument, but let me challenge it from the following ways.

For the North Koreas and Irans, the reason they may be tempted to have nuclear weapons is not because they're worried about American nuclear attack. They're worried about American conventional attack. And they see having nuclear weapons not to deter our nukes, but again, to deter our superior conventional forces. There are other reasons as well.

So as a result, imagine the United States did agree with you or did agree with the so-called Gang of Four and we went on a path toward zero. Why do we think that that would -- why do we think that countries like North Korea, which starve its own people, or countries like Iran, which has just conducted a wildly fraudulent election and beat a lot of its own people into submission, why do we think they would be impressed by the alleged moral authority of the United States going to zero and gave up their nuclear programs? Why would they not be tempted to have nuclear weapons so they could be suddenly the big boys on the block?

ELBARADEI: It's a good question. The answer, again, is not simple, Richard. But if you have a regime, universal regime, when everybody agrees that we will not rely on nuclear weapons to settle our differences, you will also have absolutely a system -- that's when I go back to the Security Council and others -- which is capable to detect and deter those who are going to cheat.

There will always be people who are going to cheat, and we have -- that's a challenge for us, for you here, is what sort of alternative security system we have if we go to zero. It's an easy -- I mean, we're all saying we can go to zero, but what is the alternative system? And we have to work on that.

They will continue to be obviously threatened by your conventional superiority. And many people say nuclear weapon is a poor man's weapon because it gives you the insurance policy and it's much less to -- you know, much easier to do than, you know, a smart weapon of a conventional nature.

But you have then to ask yourself why they are threatened by you. There is an obsession in the North Korea, for example, that the U.S. is after North Korea. There is an animosity between Iran and the U.S. that has spanned over 50 years. And it is not a question of the nuclear. It's not a question of the conventional. It's a question of can you create the condition, when we all live together, and agree that there are certain regimes that have different ideologies, but, however, we have to have threat lines, what they can do and what they cannot do.

And if they, obviously, violate such rules, aggression, you know, genocide, what have you, you then have the whole idea of collective security system that is possibility to protect the Security Council acting together.

But we cannot just take one part of security and forget the other. The whole idea was that we were a United Nations working together based on some ideals, and we have to be effective. We have not been.

HAASS: Let's have a couple more, then I'll open it up.

You did not mention before, but a person could be forgiven for thinking you might have been referring, at least obliquely, to Pakistan when you were discussing countries that might be of great concern because of the potential of nuclear weapons getting into the wrong hands.

Is there a role for the IAEA there to basically try to guard against that scenario? To bolster Pakistani command and control of its nuclear materials and whatnot?

ELBARADEI: Unfortunately, we don't have -- again, a lot of people, I'm sure, they think that we are the gods of nuclear. We are not. You know, and we -- in many cases, we are a sleepy watchdog because we don't have the authority.

You know, and in the case of Pakistan, in the case of physical protection, security, we only do it upon request by the country. And in the case of Pakistan, we have no access to their military command and control. However, I understand there are other countries, including the U.S., who are helping in that regard.

Of course, I mean, having any nuclear weapon falling into the wrong hands -- this is, again, this is going back to the possibility of an extremist group getting hold of nuclear weapons.

HAASS: Next year, if I'm right, this next NPT Review Conference, let me just ask -- maybe it's a two-part question. What if the IAEA works, as you just suggested in your answer about Pakistan, was a consensual, a large consensual dimension? The IAEA essentially knocks on doors that they're asked to then come in to.

And you don't barge down -- you don't barge in and over doors. Can the IAEA continue to operate on a consensual approach? Or does it need essentially more teeth?

ELBARADEI: We definitely need more teeth. You know, I'm losing my teeth, but the agency shouldn't -- (laughter) -- and, we, again, as I mentioned last week at the Security Council Summit, in 90 countries, Richard, we don't have adequate legal authority.

We are -- you know, we cannot barge, as you rightly said. We have to have the legal authority to be able to say I have the right to come. You know? In 90 countries, you know, we don't have that.

After Iraq, for example, '91 Iraq, we discovered that we need additional authority, additional access to go to location, to get information. We developed something called additional protocol that gives us that authority. But there's over 80 countries that have not subscribed to that protocol.

And, therefore, my ability to detect undeclared activities is very limited. You know, people say why haven't you seen this, why haven't you seen that. I haven't seen it because, A, I don't have the authority to go in. Secondly, in today's verification, Richard, we rely heavily on satellite monitoring, environmental sampling and in developed satellite monitoring areas, I'm at the mercy of the suppliers.

Sometimes, I got the imagery I want. Sometimes I am not told very don't have them. You know. In the environmental sampling, our labs are dilapidated. So I cannot, in many cases, validate the result of the outside labs which, obviously, impact on my independence. And so this is, again -- it goes back to we need the legal authority, we need the technology and we need the resources.

And on the three, we are quite short.

HAASS: Do you see any signs that a consensus at all is emerging on the authority, for example, to deal with countries that won't accept the additional protocol? Countries that might withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty? Do you see essentially the beginnings of a consensus emerging on any of these things?

ELBARADEI: I can see that, if we have the start, as you mentioned, if we have the CTBT ratified, if we have the beginning of serious negotiations are cut off, then you, as the leader, you know, of this whole regime, can go after and say everybody should give additional -- (inaudible) -- universal standard, that we should not have enrichment or reprocessing as a national prerogative but should have it as a multinational so no one country can have access directly to enriched uranium reprocessing.

I can, you know, I can say that we should not have a mechanism to deal immediately in case if a country decide to work all of the NPT. So there are lots I can say that, you know, that I need, you know, satellite information should be provided to me on a systematic basis. In many cases -- I mean, I give you the case of Syria.

You know, when Israel bombed, they suspected to be -- (inaudible). The information was available to the U.S. and Israel a year before the bombing. Six months after the bombing, I read the information. I was in Sarajevo, I think, and I got a call saying, well, by the way, you know, we believe that this facility which really was bombed six months ago was a reactor, could you go on and find out what was there.

You know, by that time, Syria, of course, built completely new reactor. And my answer -- and I continue -- you know, I was really angry. I said you are making a fool out all of the whole system. You cannot apply selectively.

So, again, our ability to do our job depends on how much information we have, how much technology is available to us. And, unfortunately, it is on again, off again, Richard.

HAASS: What you're suggesting then is, in some ways, a fairly big rewriting or refashioning of the basic bargain?

ELBARADEI: Absolutely.

HAASS: This is, f you will, a big idea.

I've specifically not asked questions about Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Syria and the rest because I figured there was a good chance those questions may be forthcoming. Let me just ask one last question, and they will we'll open up, which is on nuclear power.

Here we are a few weeks away from the start of Copenhagen. We have a lot of interest in climate change. In this country, we've got -- I now know this thanks to the work of Charles Ferguson. We've got over a hundred nuclear reactors that are due to be taken out of active service over the next 30 to 40 to 50 years.

A lot of interest in nuclear power. What is your thinking about how to square what climate change considerations will tend to call for, which is a greater dependence on nuclear power, in particular to take the place of coal in many countries, and the concerns that you've got? Is it through various forms of multilateralism and so forth? New mechanisms?

How does one eventually deal with the energy challenge that, for you, also has the potential of a proliferation dimension?

ELBARADEI: Well, nuclear power, I think, is going to go through renaissance. You know, a lot of countries -- we have 60 countries at the IAEA asking that they want to introduce nuclear power. Nuclear power, in many ways, got sexy, if you like.

You know, it's become synonymous with advance in science and technology. In some perverse way, Iran made it attractive, you know, that we -- but, also, climate change, of course, fluctuation of energy prices, fossil-fuel energy prices, energy security. So all of the countries are looking at it.

The problem with that, Richard, that a lot of countries do not have the infrastructure. They do not have, you know, what it needs -- nuclear power is a very sophisticated technology that requires very sophisticated infrastructure. And, of course, it has with it the issue of safety, the issue the security of nuclear material, the issue of nonproliferation.

So, yes, we are going to go for that, but we need a completely new order -- you know, nuclear order to be fashioned. I mean, one idea, for example, is the multinational approach to the fuel cycle. You can leave nuclear, you know, nuclear fuel and take it back because, you know, not every country have the right or the technology to be able to dispose of spent fuel.

You have to have a nuclear safety standard developed -- binding -- and not optional as it is today or voluntary. So, yes, nuclear could play a very important role, but with that comes a lot of responsibilities that countries need to shoulder.

And, right now, we're still in the gray zone. We're still thinking through that, but it's an opportunity, in my view, now to come and say, well, we need nuclear energy; it's excellent for a variety of reasons but, also, there is a lot of publication you have to assume before you embark on, you know, on a nuclear power program.

HAASS: Thank you, sir.

And with that, let me open it up to our members and just remind you to wait for the microphone, state who you are, and keep it as short and as succinct as you can so we can get in as many --

QUESTIONER: Evelyn Leopold, a journalist at the U.N. You and I have -- I've interviewed you.

Iran -- do you think, as some people in your agency do, that Iran already has a weapon? And what's your prediction about the current negotiations to bring the fuel to Russia and to France?

And is Iran not an example, as Iraq was, of boys and their toys? They don't want to be disarmed? And as you said, with nuclear energy becoming popular and sexy, is Iran not a symbol of the dangers of it?

HAASS: That's one, long question. (Laughter.)

ELBARADEI: Yeah. That's a very long question.

Let me remember what was the first part.

HAASS: This was a question about whether Iran has a weapon, the state of the negotiations --

ELBARADEI: Well, I keep saying, you know, we have no indications, no concrete proof that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapon program. That is my view. That is the views of the agency. That's the view that's supported by the NEI, the nuclear National Intelligence Estimate here, who have said that Iran developed weaponization studies, not a weapon and that they stopped in 2003.

That statement has been reaffirmed in the last two or three weeks. So we do not -- while we have questions about this issue that whether Iran has played with studies, with information, we have no reason that Iran has advanced a manufactured nuclear weapon or has an ongoing nuclear weapon program. That is -- I think, that's clearly our -- where we are.

Iran's program, in many ways, as we discussed, Iran's program is an effort to force recognition of its role as a regional power. You know, in my view, Iran's nuclear program is a means to an end. It wants to be recognized as a regional power. It wants to be, as I said, they believe that the nuclear know-how brings prestige, brings power, and they would like to get to see the U.S. engaging them.

And fortunately or unfortunately, that holds some truth. Iran has been taken seriously, you know, since they have developed their program and -- or developed the technology. And now we have, obviously, an opportunity. I mean, I don't want to talk about the 50 years from the, you know, the, you know, the CIN (ph) and NY6 (ph), getting rid of that.

Mossadegh, the first nationally elected leader in Iran in 1953 to the hostage -- there's 50 years of animosity and distrust. I think now it's unique opportunity. I see it as the first time, at least in my 25 years with the agency, when I see a genuine desire on both sides to seriously engage not only on the nuclear issue but on the broad range of issues.

I think Barack Obama today, I just saw his statement, we have mutual interests. I could not agree more. I mean, Iran could be the door to a stable Middle East in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, Lebanon, in the Palestinian territory and, also, it could be a source of aggravation of the situation.

Iran needs the U.S. badly in terms of technology, in terms of integration, trade, what have you. So how to get the two powers, you know, engaged -- and, again, I come back to the dialogue. I mean, after 50 years, it's very difficult. There's a lot of mistrust. There's a lot of mistrust. And what we are working right now through the so-called fuel -- providing Iran with the fuel to its research reactor, which is basic used for medical purposes, providing isotopes for diagnosis and treatment of cancer -- it's a perfect -- a perfect thing -- to start the dialogue.

You know, and we are hoping that we will be able to get that. There is at least an agreement that Iran will give up its low enriched uranium that has been produced in return to getting fuel for their reactor. The question is not really that basic -- on that, there is an agreement. The question is the timing, the sequencing, the modalities.

And we, again, after 50 years of mistrust, that is a difficult question. And we're trying -- everybody is trying to use creativity and ingenuity to try to find a solution. I think it's very clear if we succeed on that, that would open the way to, finally, a new era when Iran and the U.S. and the other two who can really do the heavy lifting in this whole issue can work together and engage.

And if I'm able to do that before the end of the month, as I said, I'd leave my office as a very happy man.

HAASS: I'm going to press you on one aspect of that because you spent as much time or more time talking to the Iranian people involved in the nuclear program as anybody else.

As I heard you talking, I sensed that you seem to be suggesting the Iranians saw a lot of what they had done or are doing in nuclear as something of a bargaining chip that they could trade off.

ELBARADEI: Yeah.

HAASS: As opposed to those who say it's not that and what they really want is they want nuclear weapons because they want nuclear weapons. Not to trade them off, but to keep them.

ELBARADEI: Well, again, I don't really make -- would like, Richard, to pass an absolute judgment. But based on my experiences the last six years, the Iranians were ready to compromise on the enrichment. They were ready to stop at the very -- at an R&D level. They were ready to stop at the level that could not have created any concern for the international community.

But, frankly, for the last six years, there were three years when the U.S. said we are not going to talk this part of the "Axis of Evil," another three years where conditions were put were impossible to accept because these conditions should have been the outcome of the negotiation and not the prelude to a negotiation.

It's only when now the U.S. is saying we're ready to sit with you without preconditions and let us talk. That's what they said. This is first time in my life when I see a possible hope that we might move forward.

HAASS: Great. I see a hand -- I can't see that far. Is that Mr. Sorenson? It is. Okay, sir.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

I'm Ted Sorenson at Paul Weiss. Thank you for your long service, Mr. ElBaradei. I'm going to ask a hypothetical question, not with respect to any specific country -- theoretical.

Suppose it is confirmed that a, shall we say, malevolent state has developed nuclear weapons and has the vehicles by which they can be delivered and, also, has all the know-how, access to resources, infrastructure and political will to use them again and again.

If a third country, naming no names, chooses to undertake the eradication of those nuclear facilities by bombing or otherwise, is that -- taking into consideration many, many risks involved -- but is it a solution? Is it a very long-term solution? A very short-term solution? Or in view of the country's ability to replicate its facilities, is it no solution at all?

ELBARADEI: Mr. Sorenson, it's a pleasure to meet you here at the council and, again, thank you for all your years of good service. I will turn your hypothetical into specifics. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: This is a first that any (laughter) --

ELBARADEI: If, you know, Iran were to be bombed, I mean, then that is really the question. Is that a solution?

I mean, I would only -- I have been saying, you know, for many, many years right now this is not solution at all. You know, it's -- Bob Gates, the last couple of weeks ago said maximum it will do is delay the program for two years.

I think if that -- see, you cannot bomb knowledge, as I have been saying. Knowledge is there. The technology is there. All it would do is get Iran -- even if they do not want to develop nuclear weapons -- is to go for a crash course to develop a nuclear weapon with the support of every single Iranian, including the 1 million Iranian living in Los Angeles.

Because there is a difference between loving my country and hating a regime. And so there is no solution. People forget that, you know, when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in 1981, they don't mention the sequel to that, that in 1982 Saddam Hussein went with a huge, clandestine nuclear weapon program underground.

So this is no solution. You know, and all it would do is turn -- aside from, it would turn the Middle East -- and, unfortunately, again, I'm quoting myself -- it would turn the Middle East into a ball of fire, you know, because Iran has their tentacles everywhere in the Middle East. They don't need nuclear weapons, but they can do a lot of damage in that region.

And, of course, the impact on the world would be tremendous in terms of oil supply and everything. So it is no solution.

HAASS: Gary Sick?

QUESTIONER: Gary Sick, Columbia University. I'm going to disappoint Richard. I'm not going to ask about Iran. I think that's been covered, but I will hint at it.

You and your predecessor have both been vilified for being right. And I wonder if, thinking about giving advice to your successor, who arrives very soon, whether you will warn him, do not dare to be right if you are saying it when a superpower doesn't want you to be right, whether that is actually good advice to follow.

And I also wonder, because it is related to this, whether the intervention of the Security Council into your efforts to talk to Iran and work out some kind of an arrangement, whether you think that has really been helpful. Is that something that should stand as a precedent for the future? Or is the interference of the Security Council actually a problem for you in terms of getting your job done?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think my advice is that my successor has to do the right thing. You know? We are public servants. We have to speak the facts. We have to hold to the principles which we work under, and which, basically, we'd like to do in Iraq. I didn't know what Richard did at the time, that there was a decision already predetermined, you know, to go to war irrespective of the inspection. Well, that makes me feel terrible, because I feel we were -- it was an act of deceit.

I thought, I am doing my job in good faith, and that a decision whether to go to war or not to go to war is based on our inspection process. Well, it turned out it was not. However, of course, at least, it doesn't give me consolation that we were right, because again, I think every day of the people who lost their life as a result of that war. So, we, being vilified, I think I am the most vilified person in the world.

I've been vilified by the Iraqis, by the Iranians, by the Koreans, by the Americans, by everybody I can think of, you know? But again, at the end of the day, I have to look myself in the mirror and I have to have a clear conscience. And in 2005, for example, we have been completely vilified that we lost credibility by Mr. John Bolton, you know, who said that Iran has a nuclear weapon program. How do you dare to say that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon program? Two years after, the nuclear intelligence assessment came and said well, Iran does not have a nuclear weapon program. They did some studies and it stopped in 2003.

And, so I think I learned some lesson in Iran, and you probably saw me much more vocal in Iran. Again, like with questions, like Mr. Sorenson raised and others, because I realized, well, they claim, but sometimes governments are not the most pro-reactive, and that unfortunately, that the media sometimes are jumping the gun. In Iraq, when I reported the Security Council that told this thing about Iraq importing uranium for Niger, it was reported in page 13 of the New York Times. Then the New York Times came back and said mea culpa. Well, thank you very much. A bit late, you know? That was after the war.

So, one has to, you have to stick to the fact, but you have also to not overstate or understate what you see, you cannot provide absolutely 100 percent guarantees, because our authority is limited. Government does not provide us with the tools to be able to do a much better job. We have also to manage the media and make sure that they are not going to, you know, into a certain direction which is not supported by the fact. I mean, again, in Iran, recently, the word, this whole story that we're hiding information, which is total bogus. Bonkers, you know?

But, again, it, these are, we are also to be infiltrated, and I'm sure we are, by every intelligence agency, because we are dealing with issues that have to do with peace and security. We have 100 nationalities with different loyalties. So I have to put all that into the box and try to come at the end of the day with a statement, which I believe is as accurate, as honest as humanly possible.

HAASS: All the way in the back. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Hi, my name is Eneva Lillium (ph) with -- (inaudible). I have a question. There is, in Israel, an assumption that Iran is actually buying time in order to get a nuclear ability. Some people said that even they use your agency in order to do so, and I was wondering what is your comment about that? And if the negotiation with Iran will fail, how long do you think the Israelis, when do you think the Israelis should be concerned about the ability?

ELBARADEI: Well, there's two things. I think, Mr. Sick mentioned whether Security Council is helpful, and again, I leave that to history, but I should say that I think, in my views, Security Council would be much more helpful to get early on in the dispute and try to focus on peacemaking, and rather than applying automatically the sanction, which, as I said, I'm not a great fan of sanction because I haven't it resolve anything. On the Israeli issue, what, truth is in the eyes of the beholder.

I mean, if you look from the Arab side of view, the Arabs are as concerned, if not more, about the Israeli perceived nuclear weapon program, as the Israelis are perceived about the Iranians. I mean, that is, it is a situation that has to be addressed in a comprehensive way. You cannot sit and expect that the rest of the Arab world is very comfortable reading everyday that Israel has 200 nuclear weapons. And one talking about bombing a country for getting to have the technology.

The solution to that, obviously, is complex, it's part of the peace process, but the only solution is to rid the whole Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapon. Otherwise, look at what happened in the Middle East in the last 10 or 15 years. I mean, you had Iraq, you had Libya, you had concern about Iran. I mean, our news continued to get that because you cannot have a security system that is not perceived to be balanced. And I can tell you that. I mean, I come from this part of the world. There's a great sense of humiliation and impotence in the Arab world and accusation of a double standard. Why a country is sitting outside the regime and making use of the regime.

HAASS: You just mentioned Libya. We just recently had Muammar Qadhafi here.

ELBARADEI: He came to speak here?

HAASS: The day after he gave his speech there.

ELBARADEI: All right.

HAASS: But he didn't give a speech here. We just --

ELBARADEI: I'm sure he was more eloquent than I am.

HAASS: Oh, he was interesting, actually. He did not give a speech here. He actually did the same thing we're doing. That's probably one of the signal cardinal successors of your tenure. What's the lesson you drew up? Why do you think that was such a success?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think, I think frankly, much was made out of the Libyan success, you know, more than it was. The Libyan program made no sense at all. It was a decision after Ronald Reagan bombed, I think, the headquarter of Muammar Qadhafi and he believed that the way to retaliate is to develop his own nuclear and chemical program. They had realized later on that as long as they are not playing ball, that they will not get the investment they need, that in fact, it doesn't make any sense to develop a nuclear weapon program or a chemical weapon program.

And he was convinced, as I was told again, by some of, by his son and others, in a sense, that they are better off, they are better off, not having, not having a program that is not going anywhere, that they have no security perception, no security threat, that is required to have that. And he was, when I visited Libya to see the program, I mean the so-called nuclear weapon program, it was all in warehouse in boxes. I mean, there was nothing more than, you know, incomplete equipment, and most of the equipment was not even complete.

But, however, you know, he, you know, this was prompted as a great success, which is fine. And Libya is now is part of the mainstream. Libya is now getting a lot of investment, and I think they're doing the right, they have done the right thing. But Libya is not really a model in any way, because it does not have -- Libya does not have an ideology to project. Libya did not have a security threat or a security perception, but it was an individual decision, made and was ended also by an individual decision.

HAASS: Sure. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: David Speedie, Carnegie Council. A question about the nuclear halves. You mentioned in passing, START, the future disposition of which will be determined in just almost exactly a month, and the options would seem to be either some sort of a new agreement or kicking the can down the road with an extension of the current agreement, and our leading issue, of course, is the comprehensive test ban treaty, for which ratification at this point might be at best problematical for the president. What are your, how optimistic are you on these two critical fronts?

ELBARADEI: My gut feeling that the U.S., Barack Obama, in particular, is really committed to see that through. You know?

QUESTIONER: That being the CTBT?

ELBARADEI: That being the CTBT and the cut off treaty and the START. I believe the Russians are clearly interested in having an agreement, a new start. Whether we will have -- the CTBT depends on Congress here. I think if Congress would ratify the CTBT, I think everybody else will come around. Cut off is still, again, a good possibility. I think the only country who has some problems, still, is Pakistan as far as I understand, because they would like to produce some more material.

But again, you need, in addition to the U.S., in addition to Russia, all the other weapons listed, the other seven, whom Richard talked about. And I'm not sure yet that all of them are really involved in terms of general commitment. Whether they are paying a lip service, or whether they are totally committed to move in that direction. That we will have to see. But if we start that is by having the START and having the CTBT, that would be a very good beginning.

HAASS: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Lee Siegel. I work on North Korea. As you know, even though your inspectors aren't there, the North Koreans have not restarted the reactor. What's your sense, from dealing with them over the years, of the possibility of stopping them where they are and beginning to roll back the program, starting with the dismantlement of facilities? What would it take? What's your sense of the play?

ELBARADEI: Well, my sense that North Korea has two issues. One is an obsession with its security and the possibility of regime change by the U.S. and that requires a lot of bilateral assurance that you are not after the regime, you know, irrespective of the nature of that regime or the character of that regime. That's a different issue. The other is that the only trump card they have is the nuclear program, and they would like to use that to maximize humanitarian assistance, economic assistance, they would like to get.

I mean, essentially, that was agreed framework during the Clinton administration, which is basically providing assurance, buying them off, as I said, giving them two free reactor, which was in my view, a very cheap price to pay for getting the North Koreans back into the fold. So, I don't think the parameter has changed. It just, we need to engage them, we need to continue to, and we need to understand that.

I was -- the last time I was in North Korea, I was told that 60 percent of kids under two years are stunted because of malnutrition. Well, that is, again, when I come back to sanctions. To me, humanitarian assistance should not be part of any politics. We should continue to feed people, we should continue to provide assistance to people, irrespective of our political differences. But North Korea, again, is economic assistance, humanitarian assistance and a security package.

HAASS: If I remember correctly, with North Korea, we've often provided food aid or tried to. We've often wanted to monitor it to make sure it actually got to those starving children, and on occasion, the North Koreans would not let us, so the idea that we would feed the North Korean Arm was not exactly an enticing possibility. For the, I mean, it's difficult. Again, to me the problem isn't sanctions. The problem in many cases is the regime --

ELBARADEI: Yeah, I agree.

HAASS: That will essentially starve its own people for its political agenda.

ELBARADEI: I don't disagree, Richard, but again, we have to try. I mean, I usually quote or recall what Willy Brandt said. We live in an imperfect world and we can only succeed taking small steps.

HAASS: Jamie?

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Jamie Rubin, Columbia University. I'd like to try the question Ted Sorenson asked from a slightly different perspective. You've used all of the cases over the last 10 or 15 years. It seems like Iraq is driving a lot of your frustration, to suggest that there really aren't any circumstances in which the security council can conclude that it's appropriate to stop a potential proliferators by using force, and if, is that your view, and if it is, is it appropriate for the director general of the IAEA to make his judgments about the appropriateness of sanctions or force to the Security Council as they make those decision?

ELBARADEI: Nice to see you, Jamie, back, and despite your question, it's nice to see you again. And I will answer -- (inaudible) -- I have to work, I have an interview with --(inaudible). But I continue.

I'm not at all frustrated about Iraq. It's not a personal issue. It's a humanitarian issue. I look at it and I look at how the country has been pulverized and every one of us should be ashamed of what happened in Iraq. That has noting to do with person.

I am not in any way suggesting that there is no cases, when you can, the Security Council can use force, that is a prerogative of the Security Council, but the Security Council should use force as according to the charter. And you are a lawyer. That it has used every possible means for peaceful settlement of that dispute, and use only force at the end of the day when force is the best and only available recourse and only within the bounds of the Security Council, which means a collective decision by the Security Council and not unilateral use of force.

I am not in any way, you know, of course, there will be a situation when we have to use force. That is the whole concept of collective security. I am not again, in advising or preaching security council if they want to use sanctions. All I'm saying that what I have seen that sanctions has not resolved any of the issues I have been dealing with for the last 25 years.

HAASS: Charles Ferguson, who, by the way, works on these issues here at the Council on Foreign Relations.

QUESTIONER: Dr. ElBaradei, last year, you had an article in the IAEA bulletin, which, unfortunately, was overlooked and I can't imagine why. Everyone reads the bulletin, or at least they should. This article was on, not just nuclear energy, but all sorts of energy, and you proposed forming a world energy agency. Would you talk about how that would work and how that would square with article four on the NPT, which talks about enabled right to peaceful nuclear power.

There are some that would say, wouldn't that, somehow, put nuclear in a different category? And then, I think about the 1978 Nonproliferation Act of the U.S. which says that we should do these kind of energy assessments, comprehensive energy assessments, that doesn't just promote nuclear power. And finally, would you see yourself as a director general of this new world energy agency?

ELBARADEI: That's the easier part. The answer is no. I, as I looked around frankly, I realized that energy, as important as it is, as a human activity or as an enabler for development, is only activity, if you like, that is not really globally regulated. I mean, you have an organization for food, three for food, health, aviation, you name it. However, in energy, there is no coherent approach to energy. We have the IEA in France which is basically a cartel of the consumers. We have OPEC which is a cartel of the suppliers of oil.

We don't have any organization that takes a holistic approach to look at renewable nuclear fossil fuel, investing in research, you know, upstream, downstream, having a code of conduct, a code of ethics, as to how to, on term of prices, in terms of denying energy. I think it absolutely makes sense to me. I mean, I'm not an, I made that proposal by the way, in 2006, I think, at the St. Petersburg summit. Well, President Bush at the time, nodded in approval. My own, again, thought it was a good idea but nobody followed up. And again, that's a study of how it works. I mean, you need some time, right there, but follow up on it.

HAASS: We've got time for one last, Nadia. Last question.

QUESTIONER: Dr. ElBaradei, you often allude to both sides, the Iranian side and three countries, France, the U.S. and Russia in the -- (indiscernible 18:09) -- proposal. Does this, from what you now, does the western position amount to giving up or backing down from the condition of the security council resolution that says that Iran must suspend enrichment, and does Iran, when they speak about bringing everything to the table, are they adamant, from your point of view, that they have to have the Israeli issue in the negotiations with the United States, when it comes to that, whether it is a grand bargain or whatever you want to call it.

Because you call for a dialogue, not open ended, but I'm just trying to get a sense how long, what's the end. We know what's the beginning, but what's the end?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think, no, I don't think, of course, the U.S. or any of the parties to that have in mind that they will flout the security council resolution, as obviously, that's not the idea. The idea is to find, as I said, a starting point, and that they find that to be a very important, a good opportunity. It's a humanitarian assistant to Iran to provide, you know, to provide fuel that enables people with cancer to be treated.

It's also shows of trust building, a first step into building trust. I have spoke, as you know, I have a proposal on the table, which I think is fair, which I think it has built-in guarantees, which I hope, you know, Iran should look at it, as favorably as possible. They should, everybody will take risks, but you have to take some risks for peace. However, as I mentioned with still talking about the sequencing of it, if that were to happen, and I was in Russia last week, and you read it in the paper, that would be followed by, again, a dialogue on, I assume the rest of the issues.

Of course, the nuclear issue is one of them. How we can, on the one hand, ensure that Iran enjoys the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purpose but in a way that creates concern for the international community, and then move on into security issues, economic issues, trade issues. There is a lot of issues. How they are going to deal with it, I do not know, and I cannot speak for the Iranians, where there is a real issue, but definitely, Iranian security structure is going to be a part of the discussion.

However, what I've seen in the last months at least, is two very encouraging signs. Bill Burns and the secretary of State in the U.S. sat for 40 minutes with his counterpart in Geneva. That's the first time, I think, in -- (inaudible) -- at least publicly. Dan Poneman is the deputy secretary of energy, sat with his counterpart in Vienna, in my presence last week. So we are, it's making steps, but it's little steps that could lead to a huge result, if you like, if we are doing it right.

It's just a question of how you overcome the 50 years of mistrust of stereotyping and try to take a small step, one step at a time. And I hope still, as I mentioned, in the general assembly a couple of days ago, it's a unique opportunity but it's also a fleeting opportunity, and I think, you know, everybody should make sure that we should not miss that opportunity.

HAASS: I'm not surprised that we ended with Iran. It's important, obviously, for the Middle East, but it's also probably as important as anything else right now for the entire nonproliferation regime. I want to thank Mohamed ElBaradei, not just for being here today, not just for having been here several times before, but really, for a lifetime of service, and all the best of luck. Thank you. (Applause.)

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