If ever anything was misnamed, WikiLeaks is it. WikiLeaks? Forget it. This is
WikiFlood. WikiCascade. WikiDeluge. In the old days, pre-WikiLeaks,
laying one’s hands on a classified diplomatic cable was considered a grand
journalistic achievement, a scoop.
Yet here we have pouring out each day
thousands upon thousands of diplomatic cables, laying bare much of what goes on
behind closed doors, where there are no camera lights, no microphones, no
domestic audiences to play to.
The sheer volume of the stuff is
astounding; wading through it is fascinating, dizzying and at times
On a normal day a cable saying that French President Nicolas
Sarkozy is arguing to engage Hamas, or that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
admits there is trade with Iraq, would be major headlines spawning numerous
follow-up articles and analyses. Now, as the cables flow forth daily, these are
but small stars in the WikiLeak Milky Way.
Despite an Israeli penchant to
think we are the center of the universe – a sentiment seemingly borne out by the
disproportionate attention we get in the international media – the trove of
diplomatic cables uncovered shows that we are not, that the world is preoccupied
with other issues as well, such as North Korea, Pakistan, China and
Even in the Middle East, we are not necessarily the first thing
on everyone’s mind – that distinction goes to Iran. But, make no mistake, we and
our issues do “star” in many of the cables. In an attempt to put some order into
the overload of information that the WikiLeaks document dump has caused, what
follows are some of the more interesting and juicy tidbits related to issues
that impact heavily on us:
March 20, 2009 cable from the US Embassy in
Paris preparing President Barack Obama for his first meeting with French
President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy sees no credible alternative to
Palestinian reconciliation. He agrees with the ideals expressed in the Quartet
principles (not to engage Hamas until it forswears terrorism, recognizes Israel
and accepts previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements), but assesses that the
status quo hurts Fatah and the Palestinian Authority more than Hamas.
would welcome any initiative to repackage the Quartet principles – indeed, he
allowed Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to propose that the EU take a less
dogmatic approach on engaging Hamas – in a way that allows the international
community to work with the next Palestinian Authority government (even if Hamas
is a member).
Cable from Tel Aviv embassy of meeting between Netanyahu
and a congressional delegation headed by Sen. Jon Kyle on April 6,
If Hamas forces a confrontation, Israel will have to initiate
further military action in Gaza. Israel did not want to go back into Gaza, but
it will do what is necessary to protect its people.
Cable of meeting on
April 21, 2009 between Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael
Mullen and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Suleiman said Egypt
must “confront” Iranian attempts to smuggle arms to Gaza and stop arms smuggling
through Egyptian territory.
“We do not want incidents like Gaza to
inflame public anger,” Suleiman said, adding that the Gaza conflict put
“moderate [Arab] regimes” in a corner.
Iranian financial support to Hamas
amounted to $25 million a month, but he said Egypt was “succeeding” in
preventing financial support from entering Gaza through Egypt. Iran has tried
several times to pay the salaries for the Kassam Battalions, but Egypt had
succeeded in preventing the money from reaching Gaza.
Suleiman said Egypt
had sent a clear message to Iran that if they interfere in Egypt, Egypt will
interfere in Iran, adding that EGIS [Egyptian intelligence] had already begun
recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria.
On George Mitchell
From the March
20, 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Paris preparing Obama for meeting with
Sarkozy respects special enjoy Mitchell but may tell you, as he
told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that Mitchell is “too
Cable on February 16, 2009, meeting between Netanyahu and
congressional delegation headed by Sen. Benjamin Cardin.
added that Mitchell was both “nice and tough.”
Cable of a February
18, 2009 meeting in Ankara, Turkey, between US Undersecretary of State William
Burns and Turkish Undersecretary of the Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu, a
former ambassador to Israel.
This meeting took place well before the Mavi
incident in May. Burns focused on Turkey’s strained relationship with
Sinirlioglu argued “the problem is not bilateral, but general.”
He attributed increasing regional country frustration with Israel to the stalled
peace process, especially on the Palestinian track. He blamed the lack of
progress on Israeli intransigence, which caused regional stakeholders to
question Netanyahu’s goals.
Even so, bilateral cooperation with Israel is
continuing. Turkey is acquiring Israeli military equipment, notably Heron UAVs.
Direct flights between the two countries are routine. Two-way trade is healthy,
he said, tourism has dropped recently, but “will recover.”
2009 cable from Paris reporting on a French-Israeli strategic
French participants in the strategic dialogue noted profound
disquiet among the Israelis about Turkey, [senior French Foreign Ministry
official Frederic] Bereyziat said. He reported that the Israelis claimed the
Turks have allowed weapons-related material for Iran’s nuclear program to
transit Turkey, with Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s full
The Israelis blamed the Europeans, and especially France, for
this shift in Turkey’s policy. They said that if Europe had more warmly embraced
Turkey, then the Turks would not be taking steps to earn approval in the Arab
and Muslim world at the expense of Israel. The French, in response to this
accusation, “begged to differ,” Bereyziat said.
October 27, 2009 cable
from Ankara on meeting with Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy.
[domestic] political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan’s hostility, arguing
the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his
bashing of Israel. Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan’s harshness to deep-seated
emotion: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously” and his hatred is
Comment: Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside
of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend
to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel. [Name omitted]
discusses contributing reasons for Erdogan’s tilt on Iran/Middle East issues,
but antipathy toward Israel is a factor.
Arabs on Iran
Cable of meeting
between Saudi King Abdullah and White House counterterrorism adviser John
Brennan in Saudi Arabia on March 15, 2009.
The king noted that Iranian
Foreign Minister [Manouchehr] Mottaki had been “sitting in that same seat [as
Brennan] a few moments ago.” The king described his conversation with Mottaki as
“a heated exchange, frankly discussing Iran’s interference in Arab affairs.”
When challenged by the king on Iranian meddling in Hamas affairs, Mottaki
apparently protested that “these are Muslims.” “No, Arabs,” countered the king.
“You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters.” Abdullah asserted
that Iran is trying to set up Hizbullah-like organizations in African countries,
observing that the Iranians don’t think they are doing anything wrong and don’t
recognize their mistakes.
A solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would
be a great achievement, the king said, but Iran would find other ways to cause
“Iran’s goal is to cause problems,” he continued, “There is no
doubt something unstable about them.” He described Iran as “adventurous in the
negative sense,” and declared “May God prevent us from falling victim to their
evil.” Mottaki had tendered an invitation to visit Iran, but Abdullah said he
replied, “All I want is for you to spare us your evil.”
from Amman on April 2, 2009.
The metaphor most commonly deployed by
Jordanian officials when discussing Iran is of an octopus whose tentacles reach
out insidiously to manipulate, foment and undermine the best laid plans of the
West and regional moderates. Iran’s tentacles include its allies Qatar and
Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi
government sometimes seen as supplicant to Teheran,and Shi’ite communities
throughout the region.
Cable from Cairo on July 31, 2008 meeting between
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and congressional delegation led by Sen. John
[Mubarak] urged the US to be wary of what Iran says. “They are
big, fat liars and justify their lies because they believe it is for a higher
purpose.” He said he believes this opinion is shared by other leaders in the
Nonetheless, he opined that no Arab state will join the US in a
defense relationship visa- vis Iran out of fear of “sabotage and Iranian
terrorism.” He said Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is “well-known but I cannot
say it publicly. It would create a dangerous situation.”
that sanctions are the best hope for containing Iran, but Arab states won’t dare
to endorse them.
Cable from Cairo on February 9, 2009, preparing US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for first meeting with Egyptian Foreign
Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
As for Iran, Mubarak has a visceral hatred
for the Islamic Republic, referring repeatedly to Iranians as “liars,” and
denouncing them for seeking to destabilize Egypt and the region. He sees the
Syrians and Qataris as sycophants to Teheran and liars themselves.
is no doubt that Egypt sees Iran as its greatest long-term threat, both as it
develops a nuclear capability and as it seeks to export its “Shi’ite
Cable of meeting on April 21, 2009 between Mullen and
Iran must “pay the price” for its actions and not be allowed to
interfere in regional affairs.
“If you want Egypt to cooperate with you
on Iran, we will,” Suleiman added. “It would take a big burden off our
France and the Middle East
Cable from Paris on May 19, 2008,
preparing president George W. Bush for a meeting with Sarkozy.
Sarkozy, the French needling of the US and Israel has largely disappeared from
the government’s daily script. The French hope that Sarkozy’s warm embrace of
Israel (unprecedented over the past 50 years), and his strategic rapprochement
with the US, have increased its credibility as a partner in
Sarkozy... is an unabashed admirer of Israel but keen
that Palestinians are treated justly...
Damascus on March 10, 2010, following congressional delegation meeting with
Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Regarding human rights, Assad stated Syria
was making progress, but the congressional delegation needed to understand this
issue in the larger context of Israel’s aggression in Gaza, the suffering of
Palestinian refugees and terrorist attacks on Syria.
Cable from Cairo on
February 9, 2009, preparing Clinton for first meeting with Gheit.
Egyptians do not want to be stuck holding the Gaza bag, and must be able to
point the finger of blame at Israel for the plight of the
At the same time, Egypt has withstood scathing and
widespread criticism in the Arab world for refusing to open the Rafah border
crossing to supply Gaza.
Syria on Iran
Cable from Damascus on March 10,
2009, following congressional delegation meeting with Assad.
swiftly responded, “We’re not convinced Iran is developing nuclear
He argued Iran could not use a nuclear weapon as a deterrent
because nobody believed Iran would actually use it against Israel. Assad noted
an Iranian nuclear strike against Israel would result in massive Palestinian
casualties, which Iran would never risk.
Fallout from Operation Cast Lead
October 29, 2009 cable from Paris reporting on a French-Israeli strategic
dialogue held in Paris.
France has not, however, taken any “punitive”
measures following the Gaza conflict, Bereyziat explained. He said that whereas
other European countries stopped selling unmanned aerial vehicle parts to Israel
after the conflict, the French have continued to do so.
March 17, 2005 cable from Tel Aviv embassy on meeting between Mossad
head Meir Dagan and US Sen. Jon Corzine.
In weighing the military
options, the government of Israel is aware of significant differences from its
successful strike against Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981, including an uncertain
and dispersed target set, the presence of coalition forces in Iraq and the Gulf,
Iranian capabilities to retaliate through Hizbullah and terrorism, and the
changed strategic environment.
Nevertheless, the GOI has shown time and
again that it will act militarily if it believes that its security is
threatened, and the IDF is most certainly keeping contingency plans up to
Netanyahu on Iran
April 18, 2007 cable reporting on meeting between
then opposition had Binyamin Netanyahu and a congressional delegation led by
Rep. Gary Ackerman.
Netanyahu asserted that Israel’s mishandling of the
Lebanon war had strengthened Israel’s enemies.
In a meeting the day
before with Egyptian President Mubarak, he [Ackerman] had asked Mubarak if
military action were necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,
should the strike be carried out by the US or Israel?
Mubarak had responded that
if it came to that, the US should do it and Israel should stay out. Netanyahu
said he took Mubarak’s point, but commented that he thought the Iranian regime,
or at least President Ahmadinejad, could be toppled by economic pressure,
including a divestment campaign... The goal should be to encourage Ahmadinejad’s
political rivals to remove him from power.
If Iran was not stopped, there
would be no agreement with the Palestinians, and the peace treaties with Jordan
and Egypt would come under tremendous pressure. There could be no deterrence
against “crazies” such as Ahmadinejad.
Cable on February 16, 2009,
meeting between Netanyahu and congressional delegation headed by Benjamin
Cardin. Meeting took place six days after elections that brought Netanyahu back
Netanyahu described five threats that he saw emanating from
Iranian nuclear development: a direct threat to Israel; a direct threat to other
regional states; increased terrorist power under an Iranian nuclear umbrella; a
Middle East nuclear arms race; and a destabilized Middle East, with Arab
regimes“terrified” of Iran in his view.
Netanyahu said these would not be
a substitute for Palestinian negotiations, but that any result from such
negotiations would be “washed away” by Iran’s attaining a nuclear
Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as crazy, retrograde and
fanatical, with a messianic desire to speed up a violent “end of days.” That was
not the whole country, however, in his view, as he said that “75 percent of the
Iranian people” oppose the regime, but that it governed with terror and would be
hard to overthrow.
Netanyahu on Palestinian issues
April 18, 2007, cable
on meeting between then opposition had Netanyahu and a congressional
Congressman Ackerman asked Netanyahu for his views on
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu said Abbas was a “nice
man who means well,” but he added that Israel and the US should focus on
“bringing down Hamas” through an “economic squeeze.” Netanyahu stated that a
return to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem was not a solution since
further withdrawals would only whet the appetite of radical
Ackerman asked if the Palestinians would accept peace based on the
Netanyahu said he would not agree to such a withdrawal since
the 1967 lines were indefensible, but he added that the “right of return” was
the real acid test of Arab intentions.
Instead of Israel making more
step-by-step concessions, Israel should insist that further concessions be
linked to reciprocal steps toward peace. The Palestinians must drop the right of
return and accept Israel’s right to exist. The Arab initiative did not meet this
standard since it keeps the right of return open. Israel will only have a peace
partner when the Palestinians drop the right of return.
Israel could accept case by case exceptions, Netanyahu insisted not one refugee
could ever return.
The root of the conflict was an Arab desire to destroy
Israel, which had now become part of the larger ambitions of radical
Cable from Tel Aviv embassy on meeting between
Frances Fragos Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security and
counterterrorism, and the Mossad’s Dagan on July 12, 2007.
personal opinion, present attempts to prop up the government of Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad will fail, and “an entirely new approach” with the Palestinians is
Dagan expressed his personal opinion that after more than a
decade of trying to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians,
“nothing will be achieved.” Only Israeli military operations against Hamas in
the West Bank prevent them from expanding control beyond Gaza, lamented Dagan,
without which Fatah would fall within one month and Abbas would join his
“mysteriously wealthy” son in Qatar.
Offering what he believed to be a
conservative estimate, Dagan said that $6 billion had been invested in the
Palestinian Authority since 1994. “What did it accomplish, other than adding a
few more people to the Fortune 500?” asked Dagan. Although he expressed his
personal faith in Salam Fayyad, Dagan said that the Palestinian prime minister
had no power base.
Cable from Cairo on February 1, 2009, reporting on
meeting between congressional delegation headed by Sen. George Voinovich and
Egyptian intelligence head Suleiman.
At one point in the discussion,
Suleiman seemed to imply Hamas may remain in control of Gaza for more than a
year; at another juncture, he told Senator Voinovich that if negotiations
proceeded briskly, Hamas may be forced to cede power in Gaza in three-four
months. The bottom line for Hamas, according to Suleiman, is that they must be
forced to choose between remaining a resistance movement or joining the
They cannot have it both ways, he said.
he said, wants Hamas isolated.
Background cable from Amman on April 2,
While Jordanian officials doubt dialogue with the US will convince
Iran to withdraw its “tentacles,” they believe they can be severed if Iran is
deprived of hot-button issues that make it a hero to many on the Arab street,
such as its championing of the Palestinian cause.
According to the
government of Jordan analysis, Iran’s influence derives from the perception that
Teheran is able to “deliver” while moderates are not.
The main failure of
moderates as cited by radicals is ongoing Palestinian suffering and
dispossession despite an international consensus favoring a viable, independent
Palestinian state living peacefully next to Israel.
Ministry’s deputy director of the Arab and Middle East Affairs Department,
Muwaffaq Ajlouni, put it this way:“Iran is not welcomed in the Arab world, but
it is taking advantage of helpless people.”
From Jordan’s perspective,
the US would benefit from pressing Israel to proceed to final status
negotiations, which would garner Arab support to deal with shared security
concerns about Iran.
Cable on February 16, 2009 meeting between Netanyahu
There were three options, according to Netanyahu –
withdrawing to the 1967 borders (that would “get terror, not peace”); doing
nothing (“just as bad”); or “rapidly building a pyramid from the ground
Netanyahu suggested a rapid move to develop the West Bank
economically, including “unclogging” bureaucratic “bottlenecks.”
to what he described as strong but unpublicized trade between Haifa port and
Iraq via Jordan, he suggested assembly points could be set up in the West Bank
for some goods, which would create thousands of jobs. This would not be a
substitute for a political settlement, according to Netanyahu, but economic
prosperity would make peace possible, as occurred in Northern
Netanyahu promised that as prime minister his government would
not “go back” to unilateral withdrawals, and would have a clear focus June 2,
2009, cable of meetings Defense Minister Ehud Barak had with two congressional
delegations. He explained that the government of Israel had consulted with Egypt
and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume
control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.
Not surprisingly, Barak said,
it received negative answers from both.
Cable from Cairo on
February 9, 2009, preparing Clinton for first meeting with
Overall, the Egyptians believe they did not receive fair treatment
from the previous [Bush] administration and hope to see improvements [from
Although the Egyptians will react well to overtures of respect
and appreciation, Egypt is very often a stubborn and recalcitrant
In addition, Egypt’s self-perception as the “indispensable Arab
state” is contingent on Egyptian effectiveness on regional issues, including
Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Mubarak hates Hamas, and considers them the same
as Egypt’s own Muslim Brotherhood, which he sees as his own most dangerous
political threat. Egypt views a wellarmed and powerful Hamas as a national
Cable of meetings Assistant Secretary for Political-
Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro had in Israel on July 22-23
Typically frank, Defense Ministry politicalmilitary chief Amos
Gilad was not certain how much longer Egyptian President Mubarak would live, and
questioned whether his son Gamal was ready to assume command.
the Egyptian military led by Defense Minister Tantawi continues to train and
exercise as if “Israel was its only enemy.”
He added that there were
disturbing signs on the Egyptian streets, as women are dressed more
conservatively, and that peace with Israel “is too thin, too
On Saudi Arabia, Gilad said that King Abdullah does not
hate Israel, but his chief priority is the survival of the
Proposed Russian sale of S-300s to Iran
Cable from Clinton to
regional embassies instructing them to get local governments to lobby Russia
against selling S-300 batteries to Iran.
Though Russia states that the
S-300 is “defensive” in nature, the mobile system could be used to support
S-300s located on Iranian territory would have the
range to engage targets well beyond Iran’s borders into Persian Gulf and Iraqi
airspace, threatening US and regional partners.
In particular, Abu Dhabi,
Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have increased their political- military
cooperation with Russia.
These countries can legitimately make the point
to Moscow that they cannot have a close political-military partnership with
Russia, while Russia strengthens the hand of Iran, arguably the greatest threat
to each of these nation’s security.
Israel and the Gulf States Cable from
Tel Aviv on March 19, 2009, reporting on meeting with Foreign Ministry Deputy
Director-General for the Middle East Ya’acov Hadas.
Israel’s relations with the Gulf as a function of the Gulf Arabs’ fear of Iran,
but also as due to the Arabs’ belief in Israeli influence in
Hadas described Qatar’s shift toward the radical camp in the
region as a “game” linked to Qatari rivalry with Saudi Arabia. Hadas believes
Qatar is feeling pressure from Israel, Egypt and the Saudis, adding that he has
been invited to visit Doha for talks about how to resume normal Qatari-Israeli
He added that the Qataris needed to understand that they could not
expect to restore cooperative relations with Israel without agreeing to reopen
the trade office.
Hadas noted that while the Omanis are generally correct
in their dealings with Israel, they appear not to recognize the seriousness of
the threat from Iran.
He said that while the UAE is increasingly hostile
to Iran, it remains unclear how far they are willing to go in terms of
increasing financial pressures on Teheran. Hadas said the Gulf Arabs feel that
the US does not listen to them and therefore sometimes try to pass messages
It was clear from Hadas’ remarks that Israel’s channel to
Saudi Arabia does not run through the Foreign Ministry.
of meetings Netanyahu had with two congressional delegations on May 26 and 27,
Regarding settlements, Netanyahu said he wants to work with the US
on the basis of the understandings reached with the Bush administration, i.e.
that Israel will not build new settlements or seize more land, but if families
grow, they will still have the right to build within existing settlement
Now Israel is hearing that the US wants no construction at
all. Israelis consider this position to be unfair, he said. The question is
whether the US is seeking a geographic or a demographic restriction on