Monday, November 29, 2010
Wikileaks: 'Saudis on Iran: Cut off the head of the snake'
by Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz
Key Arab states, foremost among them Saudi Arabia, that have publicly been sitting on their hands regarding Iran’s nuclear march have privately been exhorting the US to military action, US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks showed on Sunday night.
According to a report of the more than 250,000 cables, that appeared on The Guardian’s website, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah asked the US repeatedly to attack Iran and destroy its nuclear program, and in 2008 the monarchy’s envoy to Washington told US Gen. David Petraeus to “cut off the head of the snake.”
The Guardian noted that the Saudi king was recorded as having “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program,” one cable stated.
And Saudi Arabia was not alone. According to the Guardian report, “officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran’s nuclear program to be stopped by any means, including military.”
Likewise, leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil,” an “existential threat” and a power that “is going to take us to war,” the paper reported.
The cache of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables, many of them characterized as “secret,” was made available in advance to five newspapers – London’s The Guardian, The New York Times, Germany’s Der Spiegel, France’s Le Monde and Spain’s El País – which began excerpting from them on Sunday night.
Before publication of the documents began, one Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post that there was concern in neighboring countries that their public declarations would be shown to have been greatly at odds with what was said in private conversations.
Israeli officials have said for years that the way Arab leaders talk in private is significantly different than what they say in public, a dissonance that became evident with the first revelations of what was in the documents.
Netanyahu: US did not brief us on documents specifically
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cryptically alluded to this during a press conference on Sunday while observing work on a security barrier along the Egyptian border.
“We did not get any specific briefing [from the Americans] regarding these things,” Netanyahu said of the WikiLeaks documents. “It is accepted in these reports [cables] that there is a gap between what people say privately, and what is said publicly. The difference is that in Israel, the gaps are not that great, but in a number of states in the region, the gaps are very, very big.”
Israel had no official reaction to the leaks on Sunday night.
While Israel was not, as Netanyahu rightly predicted, the center of attention, there were a number of cables that related to Israel and Israel-related issues.
• Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, who stepped down as head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence last week, said in a meeting in 2009 with US Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Florida) that Israel was not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the United States was on 9/11.
• Mossad director Meir Dagan told Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns in 2007 that Israel and the United States need to do more to create regime change in Iran.
• Dagan also told Frances Fragos Townsend, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, in the summer of 2007 that IDF operations against Hamas in the West Bank were preventing the terrorist group from taking over the Fatahcontrolled territory, according to a cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department.
• According to another cable sent from the embassy in Tel Aviv, Barak revealed to a congressional delegation in 2009 that Israel tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
• Iran used the cover of the Iranian Red Crescent to smuggle intelligence agents and missiles into Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, according to a cable from 2008 that originated in Dubai and was based on a meeting between a US diplomat and an unnamed source.
Washington: Leaks can deeply impact foreign policy interests
The White House, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that “field reporting to Washington is candid and often incomplete information. It is not an expression of policy, nor does it always shape final policy decisions.”
Nevertheless, the statement said, “these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world.”
The statement added that “President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights, but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”
Among the other disclosures that were reported on The New York Times website:
• A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.
In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “If the local media got word of the fuel removal, they certainly would portray it as ‘the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.’”
• Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul.
She told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would “help salve” China’s “concerns about living with a reunified Korea” that is in a “benign alliance” with the United States.
• Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of Let’s Make a Deal.
Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Barack Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in a group of detainees, cables from diplomats recounted.
The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
• Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash.
With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money “a significant amount” that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, “was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)
• A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported.
The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.
• Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni terrorist groups like al-Qaida, and the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December.
Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the US and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.
• An intriguing alliance: American diplomats in Rome reported in 2009 on what their Italian contacts described as an extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and business magnate, including “lavish gifts,” lucrative energy contracts and a “shadowy” Russian-speaking Italian go-between. They wrote that Berlusconi “appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin” in Europe.
The diplomats also noted that while Putin enjoys supremacy over all other public figures in Russia, he is undermined by an unmanageable bureaucracy that often ignores his edicts.
Among the leaked documents were dispatches that disclosed US nicknames for a number of world leaders.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was referred to as “Hitler,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a “naked emperor,” the German chancellor was called Angela “Teflon” Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “driven by paranoia.”
Putin was referred to as “Alpha Male,” while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is “afraid, hesitant.”
The documents also say that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il suffers from epilepsy, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s full-time nurse is a “hot blond,” and Berlusconi loves “wild parties.”
The article also quotes the State Department as saying that Obama “prefers to look East rather than West,” and “has no feelings for Europe.”
“The US sees the world as a conflict between two superpowers,” the diplomatic cables say. “The European Union plays a secondary role.”
Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
Posted by Sally Zahav at 6:16 AM