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ElBaradei Exhumed

After his recent untimely resignation, it is fair to say that we have seen the end of Egyptian law scholar and diplomat Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei’s career in public service. Now, in the eyes of different people, ElBaradei is seen to be as much of a prodigy as he is seen to be a traitor. We …

Dr Mohamed Fouad
Dr Mohamed Fouad

After his recent untimely resignation, it is fair to say that we have seen the end of Egyptian law scholar and diplomat Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei’s career in public service. Now, in the eyes of different people, ElBaradei is seen to be as much of a prodigy as he is seen to be a traitor. We aim here to take a brief look at the man who had it all, lost it all, had it all and then lost it all again.

ElBaradei as IAEA Director General

ElBaradei served as Director General of IAEA from 1997 to 2009. During his tenure, he was faced with several high-profile ordeals such as the Iraq WMD claims and the Iranian nuclear programme. Contrary to the old wives’ tale, ElBaradei maintained that Iraq’s nuclear programme posed no threat before the 2003 Iraq War, contradicting claims the Bush Administration had presented as pretence for the Iraqi invasion. Furthermore, ElBaradei refuted claims that Iran’s nuclear programme violated safeguard agreements, undermining U.S. efforts to press Iran over such violations. To his credit, ElBaradei achieved several structural changes within the agency but was never successfully tested in diffusing political tension. He was a good technocrat but not necessarily as good a politician.

ElBaradei and 25 January

Following his tenure at IAEA, ElBaradei was considered one of Egypt’s most influential advocates for democracy. The country was yearning for prospects of new leadership as the million dollar question loomed: Who can replace President Mubarak? ElBaradei presented himself as a possible viable alternative. As the 25 January events unfolded, ElBaradei was the centre of events. However, in continuation of his saga as a man with great intentions but never a finisher, he was shoved aside from the scene and disposed of by the Muslim Brotherhood, which balked at the prospect of the man forming a government.

ElBaradei and 30 June

Following his withdrawal from the presidential race, ElBaradei formed the long-awaited Constitution Party. With involvement in the National Salvation Front as well as the occasional tweet, ElBaradei managed to stay at the heart of events. Notwithstanding the pontification, the man was never able to neither diffuse a situation nor present a resolution to the ongoing debacles. While I respect ElBaradei, I occasionally saw him as the Kenny G of politics; a man who gets so much coverage but remains a political lightweight.

In the events leading to the removal of President Mohamed Morsi, it was necessary to get a dream team assembled; some of this team members were functional, such as Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Orthodox Pope and Al-Nour party, and some were mere ornamental, such as ElBaradei who was brought as the poster child of the revolution to give a 25 January nudge to the 30 June events.

The Final Stand

ElBaradei was installed as interim vice-president. In his new capacity, he continued to pontificate while failing to score a single political victory; he ended up with a grand finale: resigning after the security forces broke up protest camps set up by supporters of Morsi. In a resignation letter to interim president Adly Mansour, he said: “the beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups”.

This resignation, followed by his departure to Vienna, marked an open season on ElBaradei. People launched vicious attacks on a man they viewed as abandoning the nation in time of deep need; those attacks culminated in a lawsuit brought against him for betrayal of trust.

As I said, ElBaradei may have been a good employee and perhaps an OK boss of IAEA but not good enough as a politician. Parliamentarian and founder of Reform and Development party Esmat Al-Sadat once said of ElBaradei: “He is a nice guy but he is no politician; if someone raises his voice or an argument becomes heated, ElBaradei is bound to run away”. After ElBaradei’s withdrawal from the presidential race in 2012, writer and journalist Abdallah Kamal noted: “I wish Dr. ElBaradei had not withdrawn from this presidential race; history should have had its chance to truly judge the man”. I think history has already passed its judgment and it may not exactly be what ElBaradei hoped for.

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  • Karim A Riesco

    I agree…this is a good article, reasonable and moderate view.

  • Ahmed El Ashram

    The guy never had the Charisma or the persona of a politician. After all, the military wanted him to be part of this to improve the image of the soft coup. He just couldn’t handle the tough decisions to go all the way. The question we should ask is, wasn’t it pretty clear to him that he will lose it all?…As someone who lives in Vienna, it is very difficult to expect him to hammer the MB camp and say “it was necessary”….!! After all, he will be judged before God for his choices. The Egyptian people won’t be there for him then. He was never the right man for this country and this country never saw him the right fit…

  • paniniedirisinhe

    I have been studying this situation form a distance and already made a few comments on ElBaradei.

    Yes, this is a good assessment of his role on the world stage and of his contribution. As has been said by both El Ashram and A Riesco he’s been a good man who has done what he felt he could, and then withdrawn, I don’t think he should be blamed for that.

    Other people with greater mass appeal can try to do better; nothing to prevent them!

  • Linda S. Heard

    There is a glaring inaccuracy in this article. In 2003, ElBaradei appeared several times in front of the UN Security Council vis-a-vis Iraq’s nuclear program, but he refused to give it a clean bill of health in the knowledge that failing to do so, would provide GWB a casus belli to invade. Now, two points on this: The first is that Saddam’s sons-in-law fled to Jordan asking for asylum which they received. While there, they were interrogated by the CIA and other agencies and told them that the nuclear program had been destroyed in the early 1990s following the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. Secondly, I know from the real head of Saddam’s nuclear program Jafar Dhia Jafar that before the US gung ho call to war with Iraq, ElBaradei had pledged to give the program a clean bill of health. Ultimately, ElBaradei was leant on by the US to fudge his conclusions as was UN chemical weapons chief inspector, Hans Blix, as he admits in his book. So both ElBaradei and Blix have blood on their hands over Iraq, which, as we know, had no WMD programs or stocks of nuclear or chemical weapons.

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  • Kermit Blackwood

    This article is miseleading fiction.

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