WikiLeaks: Iran focus of Arab fears

December 2, 2010
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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, right, with  General David Petraeus.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, right, with General David Petraeus.

The quarter of a million diplomatic cables published this week confirmed that, behind the scenes, there is a united front of the US, Israel and many Arab states against Iran's nuclear ambitions. They also reveal discord and different assessments within their ranks.

While the Obama Administration is still pursuing a policy of diplomacy and sanctions towards Iran, it seems that the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain have little faith in this course, and have been urging the Americans for some time now to launch a military strike against the Iranian nuclear
installations.

One of the most insistent among the Arab leaders was Saudi King Abdullah who is quoted as having told US General David Petraeus in 2008 that they had "to cut off the head of the snake," warning that the alternative was a regional nuclear arms race in which his country would also participate. Other leaders urged a military strike and termed Iran an "existential threat." Senior Jordanian politician Zeid Rifai told an American diplomat that they could "bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter."

The cables also reflect a detailed dialogue between American and Israel regarding Iran, with American diplomats reporting on the often conflicting assessments of Israeli intelligence agencies. The reports chronicle an interesting shift in Israeli views, with the IDF being more in favour of a military strike and Mossad preferring a combination of diplomacy, sanctions, covert operations and encouragement of Iranian opposition groups.

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan was initially optimistic on the chances of achieving regime change from within and pressuring the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions, but from the end of 2009, the Israeli outlook was almost uniformly pessimistic. Seventeen months ago, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said there was just "between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable."

One US diplomat commented on the Israeli assessments that they seemed to be based on "worst-case" assumptions.

The documents also detail US attempts to foil Iranian plans to acquire arms and components for its missile industry and the transfer of new missiles with a range of 2000 miles from North Korea.

Israel and Egypt not only share the same concerns regarding the Iranians; comments made by senior Egyptian officials also talk about the need to "isolate" Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The documents though also detail a good deal of criticism between the two governments over their respective fashions of negotiation. President Hosni Mubarak says of Prime Minister Netanyahu that he "is charming but does not keep promises."

Other disagreements within the Israeli establishment include Mossad Chief Dagan's assessment in 2007 that nothing will come out of talks with the Palestinian leadership, despite the fact that then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was energetically engaging the Palestinians. American diplomats were instructed to make detailed investigations and assessments on Israeli leaders and military intention including recruitment of agents and collecting of personal details.

The diplomats' reports include withering assessments of the effectiveness of the Olmert government, especially when Amir Peretz was defence minister, and also contains criticism of the government made by Benjamin Netanyahu during the second Lebanon war, while he was leader of the Opposition.

Last updated: 4:58pm, December 2 2010