Nearly 200 previously unreported U.S. diplomatic cables were posted on Thursday to the website of Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar. The cables, from eight U.S. embassies across the Middle East and North Africa, have not appeared on Wikileaks' official website or in the Western media outlets working with Wikileaks. Al Akhbar, which defines itself as an "opposition" newspaper, is published in Arabic. It has posted all 183 cables in their original English but promises readers a forthcoming Arabic translation.
It's unclear how Al Akhbar got the cables, which they say are "exclusive," and whether they posted them with the permission of Wikileaks, which has tightly controlled who publishes which of its cables and when. Wikileaks offered a handful of media outlets, such as The Guardian and Spain's El Pais, advance access to some cables on the condition that they coordinate release. But neither Wikileaks nor those media outlets have released the same cables posted by Al Akhbar. If Al Akhbar had coordinated their release with Wikileaks, it stands to reason that the Lebanese publication would have been granted sufficient advance time to translate the cables to Arabic.
The documents appear to be authentic as the cables from Tripoli match up with The Atlantic's background reporting for an earlier story on a 2009 Libyan nuclear crisis, some details of which The Atlantic did not publish but nonetheless appear in Al Akhbar's cables. The rest of the cables are from U.S. embassies in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. They portray U.S. diplomats as struggling to understand and influence the region's oppressive and sometimes unpredictable regime.