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Cablegate: Arab Leaders Pressuring US to Attack Iran


29 Nov 2010 04:4924 Comments
AbdullahWithSword.jpgSaudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain push for action.

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.

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Why am I not surprised that neither one of the leaders of the phony Arab governments mentioned a word or two in support of the freedom movement in Iran? Is it for the simple fact that a wave of democracy from Iran will threaten these puppet regimes even more so than a nuclear Iran? So let's bomb these Iranians before they get a chance to emerge triumphant.

Israel's Dagan suggests aiding the minorities in Iran to achieve regime change. But why not aiding the majority? The answer is clear and simple. They dream of breaking Iran up into smaller and insignificant states in an effort to save Israel's diminishing political importance.

Mr. Dagan, some two thousand years ago the Persian ambassador to the Roman court pointed to the palm of his hand while addressing the Roman Emperor and declared, "If you see a strand of hair on the palm of my hand you will see my capital city." Don't bite more than you can chew Mr. Dagan. My advice to you is to keep playing your Arab vs. Israel game where the opposite side namely the Arab world despite its numerical superiority suffers from mental inferiority.

We are united Iranians and masters of the Persian Gulf forever and don’t you ever forget it.

Niloofar / November 29, 2010 6:21 AM

Of course most Arabs are vehemently against Iran having a functioning nuclear program. A nuclear safety net would keep the regime in power for the foreseeable future, allowing it to spread its tentacles across the region. Most Persian Gulf states have large shia communities; in some cases shia majorities. Iran is a historical superpower with tremendous cultural, social, political and religious influence, which threatens the Arab kingdoms and to a wider extent Israel.

These leaks do however reveal that the US is not as belligerent as the regime portrays, because it has resisted tremendous pressure to attack Iran. My understanding is that the US is working towards unifying the sanctions push/economic isolation of Iran with the hope/expectation that something will eventually give, instead of using sanctions as a pretext to war. This has proven to be fruitful so far, because the economic situation in Iran is truly dire; so much so that Ahmadinejad - a populist, economic non-believer and "man of the people", who wanted to put oil money on peoples' tables - has been forced to push through the removal of subsidies (arguably the ultimate form of economic populism and the backbone of the revolution's goal of social justice).

The conundrum facing Iranians is something like this:

Do we support the pursuit of a nuclear program in order to secure Iran's dominance in the region, but at the same time solidify the regime's grip on power and risk all out war?

Or do we compromise on the nuclear program in order to ensure our immediate security and simultaneously weaken the regime, but at the same time concede our geopolitical position in the region and wider world?

Neither option is particularly satisfying, but something has to be done.

Pak / November 29, 2010 6:43 AM


The Arab governments are not interested in democracy in Iran because that would threaten their existence far more seriously than any non-existent nuclear bomb of Iran. It is pure and simple.

Vaez / November 29, 2010 7:30 AM

لعنت الله علی کل رییس الفاسد الحمار العرب

Shahab / November 29, 2010 9:00 AM

Under such climate of overt/covert aggression against our motherland, Iran no longer seems to be bound by the bylaws of the NPT. If Iran does stick to the bylaws of the NPT, under such circumstances, it will become another Palestine, where any neighboring country can rape it at anytime.

Ekbatana / November 29, 2010 9:27 AM

Wow Shahab.!
This new made you speak arabic. By the way, do not expect more from these neighboring arab countries. They ruined Iran with their notorious invasion 14 centuries ago and ever since their protégées have more or less run Iran at some levels up to today.
If any body has any doubt all what you need to do is to look at the mollahs, their attire, the philosophy they represent and their track record. None is representative of an Iranian mentality.

Agnostic / November 29, 2010 10:14 AM

It took an entire nation, the German people, to justify lowering the 'victim,' mask upon the children of zion. It will take another nation, the Iranian people, to unmask these people yet once again for posterity. Israel WILL attack Iran, of course, she would rather have the U.S. do it because this illegitimate nation would like to hold on to and capitalize on the 'victim' mask bestowed onto her by the Nazis for as long as she possibly can. 65 years and counting.

Ekbatana / November 29, 2010 11:45 AM

A very curious sampling of cables distributed by Wikileaks (220 out of a staggering 251,000) and the MSM, mostly on Iran. Why? is the question.

And what are all these comments here associated with a so-called "democracy" movement inside Iran? You think the world revolves around the delusions of certain Iranian expatriates? Absurd.

Pirouz / November 29, 2010 1:18 PM

Saudis animosity towards the Islamic Republic is just too convenient, not to mention tens of billions in arms sales!

Anonymous / November 29, 2010 2:06 PM

Mr. Vaez,
We can conclude that the puppet Arab regimes' existence is in danger since Iran will be democratic irregardless of the nuclear issue.

Niloofar / November 29, 2010 4:43 PM

Wow Pirouz, you are starting to sound a little desperate. Is everything OK?

I think the realisation that pretty much nobody likes Iran has upset you. It may also be the fact that the leaked documents so far disprove the myth that foreign governments are funding and supporting the Green Movement.

Pak / November 29, 2010 4:51 PM


We're talking about cables containing US narratives. So the content on Iran isn't so much surprising as Iran being the overriding focus of the miniscule dump so far.

Or do you just not see that?

Perhaps your own perceived bad news for Iran is good news to you?

Anyway, this is a redundant channel as the more intelligent commentary is over at RFI. (No offense, TB)

Pirouz / November 29, 2010 10:35 PM

Politics is the art of bending the truth and keep on surviving. You were wrong, if you were one of those who thought any revelation in the magnitude of what WikiLeaks did would have raised voices from all corners of the political machineries.

Starting from Ahmadinejad by downplaying the revelations till Clinton, .....etc.

These veteran politicians have developed a tick skin beyond the comprehension of common man. And yes, the common man would be outraged but that is just because he/she is not a politician.

Persiantraveler / November 30, 2010 12:29 AM

But Pirouz, this is not US narrative per se, this is exposure of private discourse. One would expect this private sphere to be full of references to the US support of Iranian protesters, but it is not, at all.

Of course I may be proven wrong once all the cables are released.

Pak / November 30, 2010 2:14 AM

Interesting... I didn't know there was a comment war going on here!

Josh Shahryar / November 30, 2010 2:15 AM

There are 22 Arab countries, out of which a handful - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar and Egypt- have against their own public opinion ( repeated polls throughout the Arab world) have shown majority support for Iran's nuclear programme and its support of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movement. None of the regimes quoted have elected governments. Iran however does hold regular elections which are, by the standards of the region, mostly free and fair and given different types of leaders through the 31yrs of its Islamic Republic.

Further those who want Iran attacked are the same people who armed , aided and financed Saddam's war causing much damage to both Iran and Iraq. Whilst it is necessary for the Iranian govt, and Ahmedinejad's govt is trying hard to build fences, to be diplomatic with these protagonists. Deep down we all know that these are never going to be friends of Iran and some of these harbour fanatical and deeply prejudiced views about Shi'ites.

But Iran and it's leaders do have a lot of tenacity and if attacked will be galvanised in a manner never seen before and it is Iran that will overcome as it has done in post-Saddam Iraq. Iran enjoys unparalleled influence in Iraq today that would have been unimaginable during the 8 yr war. Iran and Iranians should stay on course and pursue its nuclear rights and its day will soon come enshallah.

Rezvan / November 30, 2010 4:39 AM

For a sobering view of "cablegate" from Robert Fisk see:


I suggest that the follow up reading to the above should be the article by David Sanger, called by some the "lite neoconservative". Pay close attention to the timeline starting March 2009; before the Iranian elections, before Fordow, before engagement....


Jay / November 30, 2010 8:51 AM

Good to see you here, NiteOwl. And yes, the discussions on TB can have, at times, a high degree of candour!

Ian / November 30, 2010 11:51 AM

Just a point of correction on my comment above. Egypt does hold regular elections, however the results there are even more manipulated than anything to date that has happened in Iran. Iran has had many changes of president and has a vocal MPs who do challenge the President and even threaten him with impeachment. No such thing would be possible in Mubarak's Egypt. No wonder they see Iran as a threat for if their populace were to follow its example, in no time would these governments be free to act in their own people's interest and be independent of US hegemony.
Despite the many criticisms of the Islamic Republic, Iranians should be proud that in Tehran decisions are made independently of outside influence and the govt there has the guts to stand up for Iran's rights in the international arena. It however must improve the domestic political situation to make it possible for all non-violent political parties to be able to engage fully and constructively in the political arena.

Rezvan / November 30, 2010 10:39 PM

@ Rezvan

So you finally conceded the fraud in Iran's elections .
"Egypt does hold regular elections, however the results there are even more manipulated than anything to date that has happened in Iran."

So tell us about this manipulations that has happened in iran, or else it was just a typo, our Baseeje brother!.

Persiantraveler / December 1, 2010 10:59 AM

That was an excellent suggestion (November 30, 2010 8:51 AM) to start with the Fisk article you reference above and follow with the NYT fare. The former puts the latter in clear perspective. :-)

Catherine / December 1, 2010 11:20 AM

Persiantraveler- Yes it is probable that some manipulation did take place but no fraud beyond reasonable doubt has yet been proven even by those who claimed this to be the case. There is no political system, whatever it calls itself, where the powerful players do seek to manipulate public opinion towards their favoured candidates or parties. This is an unfortunate fact of life the world over. The good thing is that in Iran, firstly there was an over 80% turnout. Most western 'democracies' are lucky to manage a 50-60% turnout. Secondly, an estimated 3m people protested in Tehran peacefully. A rare achievement of popular wrath. Not that it changed the result of the election but it demonstrated a significant population not happy with the status quo for all kinds of reasons. This is good for IRI, as it awakened it from a state of slumber and loss of direction, and sooner or later change (hopefully positive one) will come about to give a better Iran. Of course, officials who are guilty of abuse and taking innocent lives as happened in Kahrizak prison and Tehran University should be brought to justice.

rezvan / December 3, 2010 4:54 AM


I dont have any dout that Arabs governements are pressuring the US to attack Iran...

and i may add that even the current leaders of Arabs particularly in the Gulf are worse then you can imagine... One Arab Intellectual had compared the Condition of Arab sovergnty at the Time of British Protectrate and Now under US dominance.. surprsingly, he found that they were better under the British Protectrate...

but what is missed in the Wikileaks documents are the positive Arab Public opinion that is well-wirten by Telhami in the National Interest.
this changed public opinion is in a dire contrast to view that Israels would like to project...

One of Israel's voices in US i was just reading has writing "who said Arabs and Israels Have different world view"... in reference to the arab "government's feeling towards Iran"...

observer / December 4, 2010 10:22 AM

I travel a lot to Iran. I love the Iranian people. It makes me sad that their government is bent upon Nazi style provocations against the entire world. The Iranian people just don't realize how solid the world is against Iranian nuclear proliferation combined with its empire building ambitions to control that part of the world.

Iran has no supporters in the Iranian bid for Nazi style hegemony. Iranian leaders believe they can resist the entire world and the necessary military actions against Iran. When France, Britain, Russia, Germany and China agree on taking action against Iran before completion of their nuclear ambitions they should realize that US, Israel and Arab states will find a common ground for military action to remove Iran as the threat they have been practicing against its neighbors and the West.

It is a sad situation that will end in tears and destruction for the lovely Iranian people.

Zed Popadapoulous / December 6, 2010 12:35 PM