December 10 , 2010
The Middle East in Wikileaks
Last week a giant treasure trove of US diplomatic cables, most from the last few years, but some from the 1990’s and earlier, were released into the public domain by the website Wikileaks.
Wikileaks is dedicated to publishing secret government information, and has become a phenomenon around the world. A disaffected American soldier had somehow downloaded thousands of US diplomatic cables (confidential reports submitted by US diplomats to the State Department) and provided them to Wikileaks. These cables come from US embassies on every continent, but the ones from the Middle East are fascinating.
Iran’s nuclear program is causing fear not just in Israel, but also in the Arab states. One report shows that Israel wants Iran stopped, but even more surprising is the cable detailing Saudi King Abdullah asking the US to attack Iran’s nuclear program. This is deeply embarrassing for the Saudis, as it shows they are calling on a non-Muslim power to attack Muslim Iran. What happened to the Ummah? The Saudis loudly proclaim what devoted Muslims they are, and now they are asking for the US to attack a Muslim country? Perhaps the Saudis don’t consider the Shia Iranians to be real Muslims.
Other cables reveal that the US does not think a military strike on Iran would do more than delaying their nuclear program by 1-3 years. In Afghanistan, the documents show that there is in fact no evidence that Iran is supporting the Taliban with weapons, as has sometimes been alleged in public.
The Israeli position on Iran’s bomb is actually fascinating. The Israelis are deeply concerned that a nuclear Iran would spell the slow death of Zionism, not its instant combustion. It is not the fear that Iran would actually bomb Israel that concerns them, but what the fear of that bomb would do to average Israeli Jews. There is deep concern that many Israeli Jews, especially the young and well-educated who would have good prospects in North America or Europe, would simply emigrate en masse rather than risk living with the ever-present possibility of a nuclear war with Iran. Israel’s demographic situation is already so tenuous that even the loss of one million young Jews would be devastating and a fatal blow likely to Zionism.
The Egyptians also get the Wikileak treatment. Apparently Hosni Mubarak took great pleasure in telling Bush “I told you so” after the Iraq occupation went so bad. Mubarak tried to convince the US to give up on Iraqi democracy and instead encourage a military coup, once the army had been built up. So far, the US has declined that advice. Mubarak has also been very prickly on the subject of Egyptian democracy, becoming apoplectic when Ayman Nour, the challenger to his Presidential re-election bid last time, who Mubarak harassed and threw in jail, is even mentioned.
The Saudis, in addition to encouraging a US war with Iran, also apparently had a very low opinion of Asif Ali Zardari. On that point I would concur with them, but not for the reason they cited. The Saudi King claimed that it was Zardari’s fault that the militants in Pakistan were not being controlled. Perhaps the Saudi King should look at who has funded, supported, encouraged, and indoctrinated those militants for the last 30 years. I think the trail of that leads directly to Saudi Arabia.
The most important aspect of these documents is how totally mundane and predictable the cables were. There was no deep dark complex American conspiracy controlling the world. US diplomats are constantly exasperated with recalcitrant and prickly allies with their own points of views, whether it is the Pakistanis refusing to cooperate on nuclear fuel disposal, or the Turks pursuing their own diplomacy with Iran and Syria.
US diplomats are pretty much behind closed doors what we think they are doing. Even with Iran, the pressure for war is not coming from the US, it is coming from Israel and Saudi Arabia. If these leaks help people see how ludicrous conspiracy theories are, and how the world really is pretty much as its seems, then they will have done a great service in clearing out the cobwebs that distort the minds of many.