Monday, 29 November 2010

WikiLeaks' Key Revelations Focus on Iran Threats

Theunis Bates

Theunis BatesContributor

(Nov. 29) -- U.S. officials have angrily condemned the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of confidential diplomatic messages, with the White House calling the whistle-blowing site's online disclosure of leaked government cables "reckless and dangerous" actions that "put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government."

Republican congressman Peter King, the ranking GOP member on the House Homeland Security Committee, urged the State Department to designate WikiLeaks a "foreign terrorist organization," saying in a statement that it "posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States." And Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, dismissed WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange's claim to be acting in the public interest, calling the release a "reckless action which jeopardizes lives."

Here's a look at the some of the key revelations contained in the "Cablegate" files that have so infuriated policymakers:

Arabs Called on U.S. to Attack Iran

Several leaders of Persian Gulf Arab states are quoted as urging the U.S. to bomb Iran and wipe out its suspected nuclear weapons program. A 2008 cable from the American embassy in Riyadh cites the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, recalling that King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz had made "frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program." The same document cites al-Jubeir stating that the monarch wanted America to "to cut the head off the [Iranian] snake."
Wikileaks key files
Vahid Salemi, AP
According to WikiLeaks, the king of Bahrain has argued that Iran's nuclear program should be ended "by whatever means necessary." Pictured above is the reactor building of Iran's nuclear power plant south of Tehran.

A year later, the embassy in Manama noted that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain had "pointed to Iran as the source of much of the trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan." He argued that the Islamic Republic's nuclear program should be terminated "by whatever means necessary" and added, "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

And in 2006, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi warned the U.S. that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "is going to take us to war ... . It's a matter of time." He urged America to take action in 2007 or 2008, stating, "Personally, I cannot risk it with a guy like Ahmedinejad [sic]. He is young and aggressive."

Iranian Missiles Could Reach Europe

North Korea might have supplied Iran with 19 missiles that are far more powerful than anything Washington has publicly admitted Tehran has in its arsenal, according to a cable dated Feb. 24 of this year. The document records a meeting between senior Russian officials and a U.S. delegation led by Vann H. Van Diepen, an official with the State Department's nonproliferation division.

Evgeny Zudin of the Russian Ministry of Defense told the Americans that the rocket, known as the BM-25, is based on the "Soviet R-27 ... submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that is capable of reaching ranges of 2,400-4,000 km [1,240-2,480 miles]." If fired from Iran, a BM-25 could potentially reach Moscow or Berlin. That's a significant step up from the maximum range of Tehran's known ballistic missiles, notes The New York Times, which is roughly 1,200 miles.

However, the cable also cites Zudin as saying that there "have been no successful tests of this missile in either North Korea or Iran," and that "Russia also is unaware that this missile has ever been seen." That has led Moscow to question whether the missile is a "technical fact" or simply North Korean propaganda.

U.S. Spying on United Nations Officials

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked diplomats around the world to spy on "key U.N. officials,"according to a July 2009 cable. Embassies were requested to gather "biometric information" -- such as DNA samples, fingerprints and iris scans -- on "under secretaries, heads of specialized agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [U.N. secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders."

The cable also called on diplomats to harvest, where possible, "internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information."

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley attempted to counter the image of American diplomats as spies. "Contrary to some #WikiLeaks' reporting, our diplomats are diplomats. They are not intelligence assets," he said on his Twitter feed. "Diplomats collect information that shapes our policies and actions. Diplomats for all nations do the same thing," Crowley explained in a later Twitter update.

Cash Offered to Countries Willing to Take Guantanamo Inmates

President Barack Obama had hoped to close Guantanamo Bay within a year of taking office. But that plan came grinding to halt when foreign nations refused to resettle the detainees. In a desperate bid to empty the controversial camp, papers seen by The New York Times reveal, U.S. authorities tried to bribe and threaten allies into accepting prisoners. Slovenian officials were warned that they'd never meet the President unless they took in an inmate. The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati (pop. 98,000) was promised millions of dollars to re-house Chinese Muslim prisoners. And Belgium was told that accepting ex-Guantanamo prisoners was a "low-cost way ... to attain prominence in Europe."

South Korea Planning How to Reunite With the North

Other documents seen by the Times --one of five media outlets granted access to the full "Cablegate" archive -- reveal that American and South Korean officials have discussed how to unify Korea, should the North implode following the death of dictator Kim Jong-il. China has long opposed the idea of a single Korean state, as it doesn't want an American ally on its doorstep. But South Korean officials believe that the right business deals could "help salve" China's "concerns about living with a reunified Korea" that is in a "benign alliance" with the U.S., according to the American embassy in Seoul.