WikiLeaks Shines Light on Israel-Arab-Iran Triangle

The Middle East's most complex dynamic gets even more complicated

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This first batch of Wikileaked U.S. diplomatic cables focuses heavily on the Middle East, where both Israel and the leadership of Arab Gulf states appear extremely concerned about Iran's conventional weapons and pursuit of nuclear technology. But what exactly do they reveal about the Middle East and the ever-complicated Israel-Arab-Iran triangle? With 220 cables from a wide swathe of officials within nearly every country in the region, the cables do present conflicting views and paint a picture that is far from complete. But it wouldn't be the Middle East without conflicting viewpoints. Here's what experts and writers are reading from the cables.

  • Israeli and Arab Leaders Warming to Attack on Iran  The Guardian's Ian Black and Simon Tisdall write, "King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, according to leaked US diplomatic cables that describe how other Arab allies have secretly agitated for military action against Tehran. ... The cables also highlight Israel's anxiety to preserve its regional nuclear monopoly, its readiness to go it alone against Iran – and its unstinting attempts to influence American policy."
  • Arab Client States  Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes, "Those governments are positively freaked out about Iran’s conventional military strength; its missile capabilities; its support for terrorism; and its potential nuclear program; and throughout the documents, they want to borrow the U.S. military to take care of it. It can’t be pressure-free for Gates to tell them to trust the sanctions or to point out the negative implications of another regional war. And it’s understandable for clients to ask the patron to deal with the threat next door. That’s why clients seek patrons."
  • Israel in the from Arab-Iran Divide  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg writes, "This Wikileaks dump suggests that some of the most insistent agitators for military action against the Iranian nuclear program are Arabs and not Israelis. ... Netanyahu has an opportunity here (and has had it for some time) to build bridges to the Arabs on the most crucial issue of all -- Iran -- by signaling willingness to make significant compromises on the settlement issue, which he hasn't done. On the other hand, this Wikileaks treasure trove suggests perhaps that Netanyahu has known all along that the Arab regimes pay lip service to the Palestinian issue while obsessing over Iran."
  • Arab Leaders Act Differently in Public vs. Private  Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch writes, "One of the points which I've made over and over again is that Arab leaders routinely say different things in private and in public, but that their public rhetoric is often a better guide to what they will actually do since that reflects their calculation of what they can get away with politically. Arab leaders urged the U.S. to go after Saddam privately for years, but wouldn't back it publicly for fear of the public reaction. It's the same thing with Iran over the last few years, or with their views of the Palestinian factions and Israel. But now those private conversations are being made public, undeniably and with names attached. ... Will this great transgression of the private/public divide in Arab politics create a moment of reckoning in which the Arab public finally asserts itself... or will it be one in which Arab leaders finally stop deferring to Arab public opinion and start acting out on their private beliefs?"
  • How Honest Are They?  Think Progress's Matthew Yglesias wonders, "Suppose you were an envoy from Qatar Ministry of Defense and you’re in a meeting with someone from the Defense Department and your private view is that Israel should be pushed into the sea and the United States is the 'great satan.' Well, you’re certainly not going to say that in a meeting! So what will you say? You’ll tell your interlocutors something you think they want to hear, and you’ll try to get then to give you advanced military equipment. So there you are, 'privately' very concerned about Iran."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.