It's been more than five years since Hans Blix left his post as U.N. chief weapons inspector. In the months before the U.S.-led invasion, Blix was on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. They were never found.
Blix famously opposed the war that followed, calling it "illegal." He maintains that, given a few more months to complete inspections, he could have convinced the intelligence community that there were no WMDs in Iraq. In one meeting with the Bush administration, Blix remembers Paul Wolfowitz, a Pentagon deputy under then-Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asking, "but don't you believe there are weapons of mass destruction?"
"If I did, I would have put it in a report," Blix said he answered.
Blix now lives in his home country of Sweden, where he chairs the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. ABC News interviewed Blix in Abu Dhabi, where he was speaking in favor of nuclear energy adoption in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates and at least a half dozen other Arab states have stated intentions to pursue a nuclear energy program.
ABC News: From the latest IAEA report on Iran, what did we learn about the state of their nuclear program?
Hans Blix: Not very much new. It said that [the IAEA] cannot confirm that there is intent about nuclear weapons. But they've never been able to do that ... however much they search and don't find anything, that isn't going to change the attitude in Washington or London. They'll say, maybe they don't have intention now but they could change in two months' time.
ABC: Are you concerned by Iran's intent?
Blix: The commission that I headed took the view that it is desirable to persuade Iran to walk back from the enrichment program because it has already increased tensions very much. Western powers came out and said they could facilitate investments and economic relations, we can support them to get into the World Trade Organization, we believe in civilian nuclear power industry. But first they must suspend enrichment. I'm skeptical about this last point, the conditionality. For Iran, the building up of the program is the trump card. And who throws away the trump card before the game starts? So I think that conditionality is silly.
In the talks so far, two cards have been missing which can only be given by the United States: one is an assurance against attack -- a commitment not to attack from the outside and not to try to change regime from the inside. The other point is about diplomatic relations. This is a card that has not been used, though it's been talked about in the press, like the possible [American staffed] U.S. Interest Section in the Swiss Embassy
ABC: What lessons from the Iraq experience, in terms of nonproliferation, could be applied to the Iranian case?
Blix: I think they were motivated by different things. In most cases, countries that go for nuclear weapons are motivated by a perceived compelling need for security. In the case of Iran, I don't see that it is there. That gives me optimism. Another motivation countries have is prestige and the aim to get a seat at the table. That could be the case, a motivation [for Iran]. For that reason I think diplomatic relations are important. There are not compelling motivations for Iran to have nuclear weapons.