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Deadly fictions

Lee Smith reviews the stolen diplomatic cables disseminated by Julian Assange. Smith likens the cables to the Pentagon Papers, with a difference. The difference, according to Smith, is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the Wikileaks cable dump vindicates the right. Here are the eight examples that Smith deems the most obvious from the documents that have so far appeared online:

1. While the Israelis are deeply concerned about Iran’s march toward a nuclear program, it is in fact the Arabs who are begging the United States to “take out” Iranian installations through military force, with one United Arab Emirates official even proposing a ground invasion. Calling Iran “evil,” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” by attacking Iranian nuclear installations.
2. It is not just Israeli leaders who believe Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reminiscent of Hitler; U.S. officials think so too, as do Arab leaders, who use the Hitler analogy to warn against the dangers of appeasing Iran.
3. North Korea, an isolated country that enjoys substantial diplomatic and economic backing from China, is supplying Iran with advanced ballistic missile systems that would allow an Iranian nuclear warhead to hit Tel Aviv–or Moscow–with a substantial degree of accuracy. Taken in concert with the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria, it would appear that North Korea–acting with the knowledge and perhaps direct encouragement of China–is playing a significant and deliberate role in the proliferation of nuclear equipment and ballistic delivery systems in the Middle East.
4. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a model Middle Eastern leader who has found the right admixture of religious enthusiasm and democracy, as U.S. government officials often like to suggest in public, but “an exceptionally dangerous” Islamist. U.S. diplomats have concluded that Erdogan’s anti-Israel rhetoric is not premised on domestic Turkish electioneering or larger geo-strategic concerns but rather on a personal, visceral hatred of Israel.
5. Tehran has used the cover of the ostensibly independent Iranian Red Crescent–a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, whose pledge of neutrality allows it access to war zones–to smuggle weapons and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force into Lebanon during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, and into Iraq, to fight against U.S. soldiers.
6. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are more worried about Hamas than about Israel and are staunchly opposed to the expansion of Iranian influence in the region.
7. The Amir of Qatar is a dubious ally, who plays Washington and Tehran off each other. “The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.”
8. America’s Arab allies do not believe that the Barack Obama Administration can separate Syria from Iran through any foreseeable combination of carrots and sticks. According to one cable, the UAE’s Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed “showed no confidence that Syria could be separated from the Iranian camp” and quoted him directly as saying “If you want my opinion … I think not.” He advised that Syria would continue hedging on key regional issues (Iran, support for Hezbollah, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) for the foreseeable future.

Smith separately elaborates one point that we have made many times and that deserves to be italicized for emphasis:

What comes through most strongly from the Wikileaks documents…is that U.S. Middle East policy is premised on a web of self-justifying fictions that are flatly contradicted by the assessments of American diplomats and allies in the region. Starting with Bush’s second term and continuing through the Obama Administration, Washington has ignored the strong and repeated pleas of its regional allies–from Jerusalem to Riyadh–to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the documents is the extent to which both the Bush and Obama Administrations have concealed Iran’s war against the United States and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states, even as those same allies have been candid in their diplomatic exchanges with us. U.S. servicemen and -women are being dispatched to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan where they are fighting Iranian soldiers and assets in a regional war with the Islamic Republic that our officials dare not discuss, lest they have to do something about it.

I should add that the stolen cables are like the Pentagon Papers in a few respects other than the one that Smith cites. The dissemination of the cables probably violates the espionage laws of the United States. You can look it up.
In any event, please check out Smith’s column.

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