Yes, I know, the world is about to end right now. But I am not an expert on Japan, let alone on nuclear power plants, so I might well stick to what I know and do best: conducting analyses, even though it might well be irrelevant right at the moment. So here's the news: Egypt already has presidential candidates lining up: And ElBaradei is one of the more hopeful ones. Shortly before the revolution in Egypt reached its peak and Mubarak was ousted, Mohammed ElBaradei showed up in the midst of the demonstrators on Tahrir Square. His appearance was remarkable for two reasons. First he joined up relatively late, noteworthy, therefore, was his absence for most of the earlier demonstrations. And secondly, once he did appear, international media was quick to describe the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a technocrat who might well be the best deal Egyptians could be hoping for under the circumstances. Since he is now off running for president, one might well ask what his late appearance tells up about what sort of politician he would be and whether he really is a technocrat.
The first question is relatively easier to answer. We don't know. He has never held public, let alone elected office. Running for the big gig is a bit difficult in the first place, since no one really has any idea of whether or not he would be an effective leader. But this largely holds true for all other possible contenders, the only exception perhaps being the Arab League's Secretary General (and only as a short sidekick: this might well explain why the same crew now off “intervening” in Bahrain to protect a minority rule, called for a no-fly on Libya, where the majority wants a new system). But if his late show up for the revolution is indicative of anything than that he in all probability is a rather wavering sort of political leader.
The second question is a little more tricky to come by. The consensus in international media seems to be that as the former head of the nuclear watchdog IAEA he is sort of technocrat, good in enforcing rules and regulations. And given that Egypt badly needs a more effective government and a government that focuses on job creation he might be the sort of a person that would fit Egypt right now. Well, I am not sure that that is an accurate depiction. For one thing, when he joined the Egyptian protests, the media jumped on the story, but support from the international community for him as a potential interim leader was lukewarm at best. The reason for this rather hesitant approach certainly is to be found in his legacy as the head of the IAEA. Even tough he and the IAEA received the Nobel peace prize, the leaders in the West were not exactly pleased. In his memoirs Tony Blair describes former IAEA inspector Hans Blix as someone who assessed his job in Iraq as one in which he would have to decide over peace and war. ElBaradeis attitude war largely the same. But Tony Blair rightly points out that that wasn't quite the job Blix had. He was simply to assess whether Iraq had lived up to its obligations under various UNSC resolutions. The decision over war and peace clearly wasn't his. When it comes to ElBaradeis legacy on Irans nuclear programme the picture is not that different. Again ElBaradei perceived his task not strictly as technocratic one, but rather as a political one. His assessments were not simply based on UNSC resolutions and the NPT but also on whether he thought there was improvement in Irans behaviour. Only again the latter wasn't his job. He even postponed the referral of Iran to the UNSC on the off-chance of improvement in Iran's cooperation catalysing Teheran's rather flexible interpretation of its NPT and UNSC obligations. In sum, he clearly was more politician than technocrat. What does that mean for his presidential run? Well, this is a long way round to saying: we'll have to see. Just don't get carried away.