'By Whatever Means Necessary': Arab Leaders Want Iran Stopped

By Raymond Bonner
LONDON -- Rather than prosecuting Julian Assange for what he calls his "outrageous, reckless, and despicable" action in leaking thousands of sensitive government cables, Joe Lieberman might want to consider praising the head of WikiLeaks. He might find a chorus of support from all the ardent Israel supporters, whether Republican, Democrat, or Tea Party, arch conservative or screaming leftist. For one thing that emerges from the latest WikiLeaks cache is that Israel is, as Jeffrey Goldberg notes, not alone in wanting decisive action to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Sure, we knew that Middle East governments were concerned about Iran. But we didn't know to what degree. The cumulative impact of these cables is profound.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the largest, wealthiest, and among the most conservative Middle East nations, made "frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program," the American embassy in Riyadh reported in April 2008. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," one of the King's aides reminded the American ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus when they were in the kingdom for a two day visit.

From tiny Bahrain, King Hamid, in a meeting with Gen. Petraeus seven months later, said that Iran was the source for much of the trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan. "He argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their nuclear program, by whatever means necessary," according to a leaked cable from the American embassy there. "That program must be stopped," the King told Gen. Petraeus. "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

This the same chilling language, which the American public is accustomed to hearing from hardline Israeli officials. Hearing it expressed by Muslim leaders in the Middle East might now have a profound effect on American public opinion.

And it goes on.

Invaded by Iraq in 1990, Kuwait is not stranger to threat from its larger neighbors. Its Interior Minister sounded the alarm about Iran, telling the American ambassador that Iran is intent on exporting Islamic extremism, "and will only be deterred from achieving its objectives -- including a nuclear weapons capability -- by force," the embassy reported. "The U.S. will not be able to avoid a military conflict with Iran, if it is serious in its intention to prevent Tehran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability."

Back during the Bush Administration, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, in a meeting with CENTCOM Commander General Abizaid, said he "was strongly in favor of taking action against Iran and its president sooner rather than later," the embassy reported. "I believe this guy is going to take us to war .... It's a matter of time," the embassy reported bin Zayed said. He wanted action "this year or next year." It didn't happen, of course, at least not in a public way. (One assumes, and maybe even hopes, that the CIA is earning its pay these days, with covert programs designed to slow down, if not halt, Iran's nuclear program).

In Iran on Monday, a nuclear physicist was killed and another badly injured in an attack by men on motorcycles. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promptly blamed "the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments."

The attack was predictable -- and prior to today, we'd have easily accepted Ahmadinejad's explanation. But what we know now, after the WikiLeaks drop, raises the real possibility that it could have been Saudi Arabia, or UAE, or Kuwait. In many ways, those governments are more likely suspects: easier for one of those countries to have infiltrated, or recruited, and less likely to be caught, because they could be confident Iran would blame Israel or the United States.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/11/by-whatever-means-necessary-arab-leaders-want-iran-stopped/67148/