JM: How badly would you like to talk to A. Q. Khan and what could he tell you?
ElB: I’d like to talk to him. I should add that the Pakistani government has been quite cooperative, providing us with information, acting as an intermediary between A. Q. Khan and us. Obviously, ultimately it would be good for us to talk to the man directly. But I’d like to say three things here. One: the technology is out of the tube. Controlling nuclear proliferation simply through export control does not work any longer because technology is out. What we have seen in Libya, what we have seen in Iran, was not really a failure of the Agency as such; it was a failure of the countries to get control over what is being exported from their own countries. The A.Q. Khan network was all over the place. We found 30 companies in 30 countries everywhere in the world operating as part of the—
JM: Thirty countries? A nuclear supermarket with franchises in 30 countries?
ElB: In Europe, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, everywhere. So that’s one of the problems. Second problem, of course, is looking at why countries are tempted to develop nuclear weapons. It is security. People feel insecure. If we settle the Palestinian issue; if we settle the Kashmir issue, if we settle the Korean issue 90% of the problem of proliferation will disappear. The last 10% …
JM: Someone is going to jump in and say that the Iranian government does not need nuclear weapons to solve the Kashmir issue, the Palestinian problem. That’s not really the problem. The problem is that governments can buy this form of security and can get it and no one really is able to stop them.
ElB: Iran might not need to solve the Middle East issue, but Iran is in a very unfriendly neighbourhood.
JM: Let me just add to that. It’s an unfriendly world. So even if those three problems you described went away, unless there was universal peace for eternity, nuclear weapons would be an extraordinarily tempting thing for a government to buy. And once again, the problem would be how to stop them.
ElB: Absolutely. If you feel insecure, if you want to project power…Usually, you develop nuclear weapons because you feel insecure or you want to project power or influence. If you want to do either of that, you look to those in the major league. And the people in the major league are still relying on nuclear weapons. You have these eight countries that continue to tell everybody else that nuclear weapons are not good for you but they continue to refine their nuclear arsenal.
JM: This is what the President of Iran, in fact, calls a nuclear apartheid — that some countries can decide on nuclear rights of other countries.
ElB: Well, I would not call it apartheid. We need a security system that’s equitable. As the chairman of the Nobel committee said this morning, you cannot ask everybody not to smoke while you’re dangling a cigarette from your mouth. It is not credible; it is not sustainable. You need to lead by example.
JM: The A. Q. Khan network was in talks with al Qaeda. What does that tell you about what terrorists are thinking about nuclear weapons?
ElB: It’s very obvious that terrorists are interested in acquiring nuclear weapons, radioactive sources. If you have seen the sophistication we have seen with 9/11…then you have to be a very worried person indeed. We are in a race against time. The number one security threat in my view we are facing today is not more countries acquiring nuclear weapons as much as terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. Because even if a country were to acquire nuclear weapons, one would hope they would still go through nuclear deterrence, the MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction. If you are a terrorist and you acquire a nuclear weapon, I don’t think they will think twice about using it. That’s precisely their message.
JM: You’re making a very important point here. For all of the attention that we hear, that the newspapers, the diplomats and governments around the world pay to North Korea, to Iran, India, Pakistan or Israel, there are people who believe that the next time a nuclear weapon is used, it will be used by a terrorist group and potentially one that we don’t even know the name of.
ElB: I think that’s probable. And I hate to use hyperbole. There is more danger in nuclear weapons being used by a terrorist…than by a State, because we’re still acting on this concept of mutually assured destruction.
JM: So does the world have the tools it takes to address that problem, to stop that terrible threat?
ElB: We’re doing as much as we can — and when I say ‘we’ I mean the IAEA in conjunction with the rest of the international community…we are working as fast as we can to make sure that every nuclear facility, every nuclear material, every radioactive source is adequately secured. We have done 50% of the job. We still have a lot to do. We need to focus on this mission; we need to pool all the resources we have…because we are in a race against time.
JM: The Nobel Prize confers enormous prestige. There is a handsome gold medal and a beautifully hand-made diploma that goes out every year. There is also the money — $1.3 million that is split every year between the laureates, in this case it will be Dr. ElBaradei and the Agency. What are you going to do with the money?
ElB: The Agency part of the money is going to treating young people from developing countries, primarily women in fighting cancer and providing nutrition for young children. My part of the money… I’m going to use it to help an orphanage in Egypt. I come from a country with a lot of poverty. I know what poverty can do to people and that’s where I’m putting the money. The prize has a lot of meaning for me. It is not the money. If it were about money, I would have been out of a job a long time ago. It really is the visibility, the credibility, and the added moral authority to go with all the difficulties we talked about: the limited authority, the limited budget. I think we got that prize not because we succeeded every time, but because of our consistent effort to try to have our world slightly safer, slightly more humane.
JM: One last question. On the front page of a local newspaper today, there’s a very dramatic picture of your face, and it says, ‘Can he save the world?’ Can you?
ElB: If you help me.
JM: That’s a good way to close. I want to pick up on something you just said a moment ago. Every year, the Norwegian Nobel committee chooses a laureate for any one of number of reasons. But for one year to the next, there are some reasons that stay the same. One of them, we heard alluded to just a moment ago, is to reward achievement. Another is to reward effort when the achievement is not entirely at hand. The IAEA, it’s safe to say, is a case in point. Governments around the world, terror groups, are still trying to acquire nuclear weapons and the Agency is itself a work in progress trying to accumulate the tools that will really stop them. It doesn’t have all it needs yet. As a result, some of its critics say it didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize. It’s supporters say that is the very reason that it deserves the prize. Because in a world without any guarantees or easy answers, the IAEA or something very much like it, is our best hope.
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