By: Professor. Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Global Security and Religion, University of Tokyo. 

It is not only the re-run of Israeli general elections in September or the U.S. presidential election next year which is important for the future of the Middle East.

The election of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog, maybe inconspicuous and too complicated for the amateurs, but it can have a major impact on the dispute surrounding the Iranian nuclear development. 

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat and the IAEA Director General died of illness on July 18. He’s been in his office since 2009, succeeding Mohamed ElBaradei who was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 jointly with the IAEA organization.

Following Mr. Amano’s death, the IAEA Board of Governors, which consists of 35 designated or elected member states, decided to expedite the process of choosing next Director General. Closing date of candidacy is set for September 5th and member states of the Board of Governors are expected to vote in October, inaugurating the next Director General on the January 1 of 2020. 

The IAEA is more democratic than the Security Council of the United Nations in its decisions.

While in the UN Security Council, five permanent member states have special privileges through veto, there is no veto power given to any 35 IAEA Board of Governors member states, either the designated 13 states or 22 elected states. Even superpowers like the United States has only one vote in electing the next Director General.

Professionalism, objectivity and neutrality are the outstanding features of the IAEA, which are acutely in need of in the diplomatic discussions on Iran.

Uncertain and unreliable information is intentionally disseminated by various entities and misused in their effort in manipulating and tilting the debate to the advantages of those multiple actors.

International organization which is trusted for its strict nature of professionalism based on scientific expertise makes space for objective discussions and plays a neutral role in inspection and verification.

If someone who just dictated from the U.S. what to do is elected, the neutral nature of IAEA will be reduced, ceasing to mitigate the U.S.-Iranian conflicts.

However, if a Director General who is antagonistic to the U.S. is elected and IAEA’s cordial relationship with the U.S. is damaged, it cannot play a role of a buffer between conflicting actors surrounding Iran’s nuclear development.

Another important election for the Middle East is taking place.