December 2, 2010
Number 12/10 #01
A third tranche of “Wikileaks” documents has again dominated headlines over the past few days – this time 250,000 US State Department cables. This Update looks at the revelations they contain and their implications.
A good summary of the key revelations of the documents comes from American author and Middle East specialist Lee Smith who breaks them down into 8 points, complete with links to sources – ranging from views in the Middle East on Iran, to North Korea, to Turkey and to the quest to woo Syria away from its alliance with Iran. More controversially, he also argues that the cables expose a dangerous divide between what US diplomats and statesmen knew and believed and what they said in public. He also argues that the documents amount to a “conservative pentagon papers” which largely vindicate the views put by pro-Israel conservatives. For this useful list of key revelations from the documents as well as Smith’s argument, CLICK HERE. Contrary views to Smith’s on the unexpected nature of many of the revelations in the documents come from foreign policy analyst Max Boot, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and former senior officials from opposite sides of politics – Elliot Abrams and Leslie Gelb, all of whom argue the documents’ contents are pretty unsurprising, but also explain why their release is damaging.
Next up, Israeli political journalist Herb Keinon points out that the documents appear to refute the idea, once favoured by Washington, of linkage – that it is necessary to progress toward a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to get any significant concerted action on Iran’s nuclear program. Keinon details the history of this belief, and then collects several quotes from Arab leaders revealed by Wikileaks which appear to make it clear that they were prepared to back strong action against Iran in any case. Keinon concludes by asking why the US Administration continued to publicly insist on linkage knowing that the statements of Arab leaders did not support this idea. For all of this and more, CLICK HERE. A great deal more on what the cables reveal about Middle Eastern concerns on Iran is included in this New York Times piece. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post also had an editorial on Wikileaks and the linkage issue, while well-known law professor Alan Dershowitz puts forward a case for the reverse version of linkage – that a failure to stop the Iranian nuclear program would doom Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects.
Finally, the Investigative Project, an American thinktank focused on terrorism and extremism, summarises what the Wikileaks documents say about other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These include “increasing American and Israeli cooperation with Arab states, a greater focus on isolating Hamas, and the intricacies of intelligence collection against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.” It also looks at what the documents reveal about the fight against Hamas terrorism and possible links to al-Qaeda. For all the details, CLICK HERE. A useful summary of most of the key Wikileaks documents relating to Israel is here.
Readers may also be interested in:
- More general analysis of the various revelations in the documents from Barry Rubin and American columnist Tunku Varadarajan. Some analysis of the overall effect of the leaking of American documents comes from Israeli columnist Eitan Haber and European analyst Emanuele Ottolenghi.
- Veteran Israel political reporter Aluf Benn (who just visited Australia) says that from Israel’s point of view, nothing in the Wikileaks documents is embarrassing – they show the Israeli leaders and officials saying in private just what they say in public.
- The Israeli press has had many articles on various relevant aspects of the Wikileaks: on Israeli ties with Gulf states, on Israeli contacts with the Palestinian Authority and Egyptians regarding the Gaza operation last year, on some conciliatory statements toward Israel from Qatar’s ruler, and on Egyptian views on Hamas and weapons smuggling into Gaza.
- Israeli PM Bnyamin Netanyahu calls on Arab leaders to say publicly about Iran what they are reported to have said privately to US diplomats.
- An analysis of how many supposed Middle East experts were flat wrong about Arab views on Iran.
- American columnist and blogger Jeffrey Goldberg discussing what Wikileaks says about the Walt-Mearsheimer paranoid view that it is the all-powerful “Jewish Lobby” that is pushing for war on Iran. Similar sentiments come from thinktanker Josh Block.
- More on the rather frightening insights of US government officials into the motivation and personality of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
- More on the Iranian use of ambulances and the Red Crescent to smuggle arms to Hezbollah.
- The Revolutionary Council of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party declares it will never recognise Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, and even more worryingly, rejects land swaps, something widely viewed as essential for any peace deal, as well as any other compromises. More on the significance of this unfortunate and largely unreported development from Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh and an editorial in the Jerusalem Post.
The classified diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks are the Pentagon Papers of the pro-Israel right
By Lee Smith
Tablet Magazine, Nov 29, 2010 1:34 PM
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isn’t instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu; whether his muckraking website isn’t part of a Likudnik plot to provoke an attack on Iran; and if PFC Bradley Manning, who allegedly uploaded 250,000 classified documents to Wikileaks, is actually a Lee Harvey Oswald-like neocon patsy.
With all due apologies to Oliver Stone (and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan  of Turkey), what the Wikileaks documents reveal is not a conspiracy of any kind but a scary and growing gap between the private assessments of American diplomats and allies in the Middle East and public statements made by U.S. government officials. The publication of these leaked cables is eerily reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed a decade-long attempt by U.S. officials to distort and conceal unpalatable truths about the Vietnam War, and manipulate public opinion. The difference is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the Wikileaks cable dump vindicates the right.
Here are eight of the most obvious examples from the initial trove of documents that has appeared online:
1. While the Israelis are deeply concerned about Iran’s march toward a nuclear program, it is in fact the Arabs who are begging the United States to “take out” Iranian installations through military force, with one United Arab Emirates official even proposing  a ground invasion. Calling Iran “evil ,” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” by attacking Iranian nuclear installations.
2. It is not just Israeli leaders who believe Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reminiscent of Hitler; U.S. officials think so  too, as do Arab leaders, who use the Hitler analogy to warn  against the dangers of appeasing Iran.
3. North Korea, an isolated country that enjoys substantial diplomatic and economic backing from China, is supplying  Iran with advanced ballistic missile systems that would allow an Iranian nuclear warhead to hit Tel Aviv—or Moscow—with a substantial degree of accuracy. Taken in concert with the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria, it would appear that North Korea—acting with the knowledge and perhaps direct encouragement of China—is playing a significant and deliberate role in the proliferation of nuclear equipment and ballistic delivery systems in the Middle East.
4. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a model Middle Eastern leader who has found the right admixture of religious enthusiasm and democracy, as U.S. government officials often like to suggest in public, but “an exceptionally dangerous” Islamist . U.S. diplomats have concluded that Erdogan’s anti-Israel rhetoric is not premised on domestic Turkish electioneering or larger geo-strategic concerns but rather on a personal, visceral hatred of Israel.
5. Tehran has used the cover of the ostensibly independent Iranian Red Crescent—a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, whose pledge of neutrality allows it access to war zones—to smuggle  weapons and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force into Lebanon during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, and into Iraq, to fight against U.S. soldiers.
6. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are more worried  about Hamas than about Israel and are staunchly opposed to the expansion of Iranian influence in the region.
7. The Amir of Qatar is a dubious ally , who plays Washington and Tehran off each other. “The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.”
8. America’s Arab allies do not believe that the Barack Obama Administration can separate Syria from Iran through any foreseeable combination of carrots and sticks. According to  one cable, the UAE’s Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed “showed no confidence that Syria could be separated from the Iranian camp” and quoted him directly as saying “If you want my opinion … I think not.” He advised that Syria would continue hedging on key regional issues (Iran, support for Hezbollah, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) for the foreseeable future.
If these cables make many on the right look prescient, or at least in touch with reality, it is hardly a surprise that their domestic U.S. rivals are trying to spin the Wikileaks cables to their own advantage. For instance, leftwing academic specialists on the Middle East who have argued  that the peace process is the key issue in the region and that the Gulf Arab states do not want the United States or Israel to bomb Iran are nonetheless celebrating  the Wikileaks documents, even as their argument is now vitiated. Some university professors claim  that their analysis is better than those of Washington’s Arab allies anyway. The New York Times is trying to make the case  that in the wake of George W. Bush’s mismanagement the Obama Administration has managed to build a strong sanctions regime against Iran that includes Russia and China. Unfortunately, the cables prove only that Russian envoys are working to frustrate the U.S. effort by selling the Iranian position  to the Arabs.
What comes through most strongly from the Wikileaks documents, however, is that U.S. Middle East policy is premised on a web of self-justifying fictions that are flatly contradicted by the assessments of American diplomats and allies in the region. Starting with Bush’s second term and continuing through the Obama Administration, Washington has ignored the strong and repeated pleas of its regional allies—from Jerusalem to Riyadh—to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the documents is the extent to which both the Bush and Obama Administrations have concealed Iran’s war against the United States and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states, even as those same allies have been candid in their diplomatic exchanges with us. U.S. servicemen and -women are being dispatched to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan where they are fighting Iranian soldiers and assets in a regional war with the Islamic Republic that our officials dare not discuss, lest they have to do something about it.
Members of the Washington policy establishment should be considerably less worried about how the foreign ministries of allied countries respond to the leaks than how the American electorate does. Even in a democracy, we accept that a key part of our diplomacy depends on concealing the truth, or even lying, in order to advance the interests of one’s own country. But it is hard to see how the public, mendacious, face of U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, serves American interests. By systematically misleading the American people, our policymakers have undermined the basis of our democracy, which is premised on the existence of a public that is capable of making informed decisions about a world that is only becoming more dangerous.
Article printed from Tablet Magazine: http://www.tabletmag.com/
URLs in this post:
 Ahmadinejad: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/world/middleeast/30iran.html
 Erdogan: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/updates-on-the-global-reaction-to-leaked-u-s-cables/
 proposing: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/32662
 evil: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/arab-states-scorn-iranian-evil
 think so: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/8166248/WikiLeaks-US-referred-to-Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-as-Hitler.html
 warn: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29iran.html?pagewanted=2
 supplying: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29missiles.html
 Islamist: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,731590,00.html
 smuggle: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/iranian-spies-red-crescent-war
 worried: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/191130
 dubious ally: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/250177
 According to: http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09ABUDHABI754.html
 argued: http://www.mererhetoric.com/2010/11/28/wikileaks-anti-israel-foreign-policy-experts-got-saudi-arabia-other-arab-countries-100-backward-on-iran-attack/
 celebrating: http://www.arabist.net/blog/2010/11/29/cablegate.html
 claim: https://twitter.com/abuaardvark
 case: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29iran.html
 selling the Iranian position: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/189229
Copyright © 2010 Tablet Magazine. All rights reserved.
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By HERB KEINON
Jerusalem Post, 11/30/2010 00:59
While US maintains that solving Palestinian conflict is key to peace, Israel’s position is to first deal with Iran – neutralize it.
Since the earliest days of Barack Obama’s presidency, there have been two major conceptual differences between how Israel and how the US administration view the Middle East.
The first difference has to do with the region. While the US maintains that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum is the key to unlocking peace in the Middle East and getting other countries in the region on board to help stop the Iranian threat, Israel’s position is to first deal with Iran – neutralize it – which will then make it easier to reach an accord with the Palestinians.
Israel’s logic is that Hamas and Hizbullah – Iran’s two proxies – will be much less able to gum up the works whenever diplomatic progress looms if Iran is defanged.
The second key conceptual difference has to do with how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the US still tied into the land-for peace formula – Israel gives up land and gets peace in return – and much of Israel, bitten badly by reality, no longer convinced that formula is relevant.
And along comes the cache of WikiLeaks documents and reveals that Obama’s linkage of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iran is nothing short of fiction – a fiction he and his key aides have been spinning since the beginning of his tenure.
At his very first White House meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in May 2009, that famous meeting in which Obama called for a complete halt to all settlement construction, Obama was asked what he thought about Israel’s position that only if the Iranian threat were solved could there be real progress on the Palestinian track.
“Well, let me say this,” Obama said. “There’s no doubt that it is difficult for any Israeli government to negotiate in a situation in which they feel under immediate threat. That’s not conducive to negotiations. And as I’ve said before, I recognize Israel’s legitimate concerns about the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon when they have a president who has in the past said that Israel should not exist. That would give any leader of any country pause.
“Having said that,” the president went on, “if there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians – between the Palestinians and the Israelis – then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.”
And that position, that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue – that stopping settlement construction – would somehow magically mollify the Arab world and get it to put its shoulder to the wheel regarding Iran has been a constant thread throughout the Obama regime. Here it was popularly dubbed “Yitzhar for Bushehr.”
What the WikiLeaks cache revealed, however, was that this argument was a fabrication. There was no need to crack the Palestinian-Israeli nut before getting the “moderate” Arab nations in the region – Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan – on board regarding Iran, because those nations were already fully camped out on board the deck of the ship, just waiting for action against Iran.
Now this doesn’t mean efforts should not be made toward trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but don’t say the reason is to get the Arabs to stop Iran.
The following quotes from Arab leaders culled from the WikiLeaks trove do not exactly portray a picture of leaders who need any further enticements before “getting on board.”
• Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, quoted by the monarchy’s envoy to the US in 2008 as exhorting the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons program, said in reference to Iran – according to one cable – that it was necessary to “cut the head of the snake.”
• King Hamad of Bahrain was quoted in 2009 as saying, “That program [the Iranian nuclear program] must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”
• Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed in 2009 urged the US, according to another cable, not to appease Teheran and said, “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”
• Maj-Gen. Muhammad al-Assar, assistant to the Egyptian defense minister, was quoted in a cable in 2010 as saying that “Egypt views Iran as a threat to the region.”
Obama was obviously well aware of the views of these leaders, most of whom he personally met, yet he continued to propagate what he must have known to be a falsehood – that these countries would only sign on to sanctions and otherwise support efforts to neutralize Iran if there were progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
Obviously these countries wanted to see progress on that track, but this desire had nothing to do with Iran. Nor would an Israeli-Palestinian accord lead them to be supportive of aggressive steps toward Iran, because they were already practically dreaming of those steps.
To link the two issues – the conflict with the Palestinians, and Iran – was to badly muddle the issue. Why exactly Obama felt compelled to do so is one of the key questions the WikiLeaks documents raised in relation to our region
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IPT News (Investigative Project)
November 28, 2010
The Israeli government asked the Palestinian Authority if it would take control of the Gaza Strip in the lead-up to Operation Cast Lead. Hamas will accept a negotiated peace based upon the 1967 borders, although not publicly. And the U.S. government is seeking information on foreign funding of terrorism—in particular from Venezuela and Turkey.
All of this is according to leaked State Department documents posted Sunday on the Wikileaks site.
The State reports leaked by Wikileaks shed new light onto the past and ongoing delicate negotiations that the U.S. government has undertaken to reach a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The classified documents, which span four years and the most recent two American administrations, reveal increasing American and Israeli cooperation with Arab states, a greater focus on isolating Hamas, and the intricacies of intelligence collection against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The documents, many of which summarize meetings between foreign government officials and American diplomats and members of Congress, indicate that there is more interest in a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians than at any time in recent history.
In one report, issued on the heels of the 2007 Annapolis Conference, the head of Egypt’s Security Service, Omar Soliman, told the U.S. ambassador to Cairo and a visiting congressional delegation that there was broad-based support for a negotiated peace and the creation of a Palestinian state within one to three years.
Believing that such a peaceful resolution would be a “big blow” to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext for violence, Soliman enumerated the conditions that would make peace possible: a moderate PA leadership willing to negotiate; an isolated and politically cut-off Hamas; an Israeli government ready for peace; and Arab states ready to see an end to “the struggle.”
Hamas boycotted the Annapolis peace negotiations, and protests erupted in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Despite that, Soliman went on to applaud the Bush Administration’s efforts at Annapolis. “The bottom line for Hamas is that they must be forced to choose between remaining a resistance movement or joining the political process,” Soliman reportedly told U.S. officials. “They cannot have it both ways.”
The conference, Soliman reported, gave new hope to the peace process. “We have a short time to reach peace. We need it. We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths. We want everyone happy. That is the Egyptian dream.”
The conference ultimately failed to achieve the peace settlement that participants had hoped for, but the U.S. continues to pursue it.
During a February 2010 meeting between Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the men discussed recent administration efforts to move forward with Israeli-Palestinian peace. In a wide-ranging conversation, the men discussed border negotiations, the right of return, parallel peace efforts with Syria, the demilitarization of an eventual Palestinian state, and Jerusalem, among other topics.
Emir al-Thani argued that the best way to move forward on peace between Israel and the Palestinians was for the Americans to push Israel to make peace with Syria. This, al-Thani argued, “would help push Arab extremists,” the leaked documents show.
Referencing the 2006 war between Hizballah and Israel and 2008 Operation Cast Lead, the emir said what has changed is that Arabs “for sure” now want two states—Israel and Palestine. “When you consider that many in the region perceive that Hizballah drove Israel out of Lebanon and Hamas kicked them (at least initially) out of the small piece of land called Gaza, it is actually surprising that the Israelis still want peace.”
Despite that, al-Thani said he believed the moment is ripe for successful peace negotiations. Israelis, who “have been under threat for a long time,” are ready for peace. And “Hamas will accept the 1967 borders with Israel, but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support.”
The only remaining question involved the authority and resolve of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry and al-Thani agreed Abbas “is not strong enough to make necessary compromises with Israel because the Palestinian people have wanted him to stick to his guns on a settlement freeze and the Goldstone Report.” The Report, which was critical of Israel’s actions during Operation Cast Lead, has been widely criticized as one-sided and inaccurate.
U.S. officials are looking beyond Abbas’ political abilities to the internal politics of all Palestinian reconciliation efforts, the documents show. For example, an October 2008 cable detailed State’s efforts to collect intelligence on Palestinian issues.
The directive sought to have diplomats collect information on officials within Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, including phone numbers, email addresses, credit card account numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and “other relevant biographical information.”
While largely interested in official and public perceptions on issues relevant to ongoing peace negotiations, including final status issues and the U.S. role in the peace process, the directive highlighted a number of areas of interest for the global fight against terrorism.
Of particular note was the source of funding for Hamas and the organization’s potential for cooperation with other terrorist groups.
American officials sought information on how Hamas has raised and moved money, including “contacts and cooperation between NGOs and terrorist groups, especially Hamas charities and any political/humanitarian entities suspected of passing funds to militants.” Highlighting the threat posed by abuse of Islamic charities, the directive requested “details on Hamas’ social welfare network to include hospitals, education systems, textbooks, libraries, and social services in the Palestinian territories and their funding sources in the region and worldwide.”
The directive also asked that diplomats discern whether there is any “relationship between Palestinian terrorist groups and al-Qaida, and indications of interest by Palestinian terrorist groups to work with global jihadists.”