Cablegate: Arab Leaders Pressuring US to Attack Iran
by JOSH SHAHRYAR
29 Nov 2010 04:49
WikiLeaks' new cache of documents is out -- and Iran looks to be on several Middle Eastern countries' hit lists, not even including Israel's.
While it is well-known that Iran's neighbors are uneasy with its "civilian" nuclear program and view it as an attempt by the Islamic Republic's regime to create nuclear weapons, the recent revelations are damning. It shows not only the degree to which the Arab states of the Persian Gulf fear Iran, but also the amount of pressure the United States has to resist from its allies who see a military strike as the answer to their concerns. Saudi Arabia's voice has been the loudest in urging a U.S. attack.
The documents -- dubbed Cablegate and released through four major world newspapers today -- include over 200,000 diplomatic cables that detail meetings and communications between U.S. and foreign officials. According to the documents, Saudi King Abdullah has been the most vocal proponent of an attack on Iran. He urged the United States to "cut off the head of the snake." Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, did not rule out military pressure against Iran and urged stronger sanctions -- including ones that do not need U.N. approval.
Saudi Arabia was accused earlier this year of being ready to let Israel use its airspace to attack Iran. Fear of Iran also seems to be gripping the UAE, where Abu Dhabi's crown prince and deputy commander of the UAE armed forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan told a U.S. general that if air strikes weren't enough to destroy Iran's nuclear program, ground forces would be the best option. His brother, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE foreign minister, suggested that the Emirates might be able to persuade China to join the world in sanctions against Iran.
While the pressure on the United States to attack Iran mounts, some Arab states are urging caution.
In one of the cables, a senior Omani military official pointed to Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar as three Gulf States that likely want a U.S. attack on Iran. However, in the same dispatch, he cautions the United States to not to repeat the mistakes it made by starting the war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence.
He was right about Bahrain.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa joined the Saudi king in pushing for an attack. He is quoted as stating about the nuclear program, "That must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."
However, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, emir of Qatar, seemed to not be interested in a U.S. attack on Iran because of gas fields the two nations share in the Persian Gulf, and he called U.S. support for Iranian protesters following the fraudulent election last year a "mistake." While cautioning the United States against trusting Iran, he offered to open a dialogue between the two countries.
Surprisingly, the cables suggest that Kuwait has been more interested in Iran's opposition than in its nuclear program. In a cable from August of last year, a Kuwaiti intelligence official speaks openly about Iran's regime falling if Mir Hossein Mousavi were to be arrested.
Mostly neutral Jordan seemed to favor other methods, including resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, ensuring a stable government in Iraq, and peaceful solutions to the Iran problem. It did want to be consulted before U.S. engagement in Iran -- presumably to safeguard its own interests.
From Israel, Mossad Director Meir Dagan summed up the sentiment of Arab countries that favor an attack, saying that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States feared Iran, but wanted someone else "to do the job for them."
The United States has demonstrated restraint so far, but other documents show that it is extremely concerned about the developments inside Iran. According to one cable describing a meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, in Gates's view,
Without progress in the next few months, we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both. [Gates] predicted "a different world" in 4-5 years if Iran developed nuclear weapons.
As pressure on the United States mounts, an attack on Iran may become a real possibility. Even as far away as Egypt, fear of the Islamic Republic is making a head of state squeamish.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did not go so far as to advocate a military strike, although he did call Iran a "significant threat" to Egypt and accused it of meddling. He told American officials that he does not oppose U.S.-Iran talks so long as they do not believe a word of what their Iranian counterparts have to say.