We didn’t need WikiLeaks’ dump of a quarter million State Department cables to tell us that its Arab neighbors are terrified of Iran and want “the head of the snake cut off,” in the words of the Saudi king, but they expect the United States or Israel to do the job for them because they lack the courage to do it themselves.
Bahrain’s King Hamid urged the United States to “terminate” Iran’s nuclear program “by whatever means necessary,” according to the cables, and similar views were reported by top officials in Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Oman, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.
Arab leaders may publicly embrace — literally — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and declare brotherhood, but the cables leave little doubt they loathe and fear him. Adding to the sense of urgency are reports that China and North Korea are doing even more than previously believed to help Iran develop long-range ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, and nuclear technology, and threats from Gulf Arabs that if we don’t take care of Iran they’ll feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons.
The document dump gives new credence to Israeli warnings and exposes the Arabs as duplicitous on the most critical issue facing their region.
They leave little doubt they’d prefer Israel eliminate the Iranian threat (see Watergate: plausible deniability) but just as sure as Allah made little green apples you know they would fiercely denounce the hated Zionists for their brutal attack on a dear Muslim brother.
There’s precedent. The first time Israel thwarted the nuclear ambitions of a brutal dictator, it was universally condemned — and the chorus was led by the United States. In response to Arab demands, President Ronald Reagan directed his UN ambassador to work with the Iraqis on a UN Security Council resolution condemning the 1981 raid that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osiraq nuclear reactor.
Publicly the Arab world united in its condemnation of the Jewish state but a few days later when a CIA briefer was asked by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a classified briefing about the Arab reaction to the Israeli attack, he replied, “Booyea.” Puzzled lawmakers asked him to translate that into English.
“Publicly they’re booing Israel and privately they’re cheering,” he explained.
It is obvious today that the Israeli raid did at least as much to protect Saudi Arabia and Iran from an Iraqi nuclear threat as it did Israel. Saddam waited nearly a decade for revenge, launching Scud missiles at Israel during the First Gulf War in 1991.
The second Israeli nuclear non-proliferation act was Operation Orchard, the Sept. 2007 attack on a Syrian reactor, believed to have been built with the help of Iran and North Korea. Unlike 1981, Israel didn’t announce its attack to the world, but a few weeks later the Bush administration, which had refused to do the job itself, did.
Russia and China say they don’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons, but their actions are having an opposite effect. They are Iran’s chief enablers, protecting it from more intense international pressure. China is the greater problem; along with its rogue ally, North Korea, it is helping Iran acquire long-range ballistic missiles and chemical weapons capabilities, the leaked documents reveal. Iran’s missile capability is greater than previously known publicly.
Israel has been accused of being behind moves to impede Iran’s nuclear program, according to media reports, including the sale of faulty equipment for uranium enrichment, the Stuxnet computer worm that damaged centrifuges, and attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.
Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed exposure of what Arab leaders are saying in private as proof they agree with him about the Iranian threat to the region, and he expressed hope they’d now say it publicly. Don’t hold your breath, Bibi.
Atlantic.com’s Jeffrey Goldberg makes an interesting point: the WikiLeaks dump disproves those who say, “it is only Israel advocating for war against Iran” when in fact “the most strident lobbyists for war against Iran have been Arab leaders.”
Another victim of the leaks is Israel-bashers like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, who repeatedly warned that an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities would create anti-Israel “resentment” in the region and damage U.S.-Israel relations. It appears that just the opposite may be the case.
The Obama administration has said Arab leaders have told it that progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace would make regional cooperation against the Iranian threat easier, yet when the president personally pleaded with the Saudi king to act on that he was rebuffed.
King Abdullah, who claims authorship of the Arab peace initiative, has repeatedly refused to offer some confidence building measures to encourage greater Israeli flexibility in the faltering peace process. Instead he sticks to his insistence the Israeli government must meet Arab demands before the Saudis will even speak to it about peace.
It also shows that for all their talk about wanting the Israelis to make peace with the Palestinians, their real concern is Iran. And the talk about peace may be just that — talk.