This week’s WikiLeaks dump of more than 200,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables contained few bombshells but a lot of revealing information about complex diplomatic interactions, including diplomacy aimed at confronting the Iranian nuclear threat.
It also raised troubling questions about when government secrecy is appropriate. Effective diplomacy becomes all but impossible when leaders of nations and their ambassadors can’t express themselves freely to each other, without fear of producing international headlines.
There’s little doubt these leaks, unprecedented in scale and apparently without any purpose other than embarrassing the U.S. government, will make the jobs of our diplomats around the world significantly harder and undermine U.S. security interests.
Israeli apprehensions in advance of the highly hyped release proved unfounded; there was little in the document deluge that proved embarrassing, and much that confirmed Israeli views about their dangerous region.
On Iran, the cables showed the complexity of U.S. efforts to put together a broad international coalition to pressure Tehran to abandon its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons technology. And they revealed something those favoring a tougher U.S. approach to Iran have argued for years: Israel isn’t the only Middle Eastern nation that sees a nuclear Iran as a dire threat. Far from it. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah repeatedly urged Washington to “cut off the head of the snake,” a clear call for U.S. military action.
One wonders: why have the Saudis been such reluctant public partners in the effort to stop Iran, while privately demanding U.S. troops and treasure be risked? What chutzpah and what hypocrisy. The same goes for other Middle Eastern nations that publicly embrace Iran and its dangerous leader, while privately appealing to Washington to solve the problem for them.
You can be sure that if Israel chooses to solve the problem militarily, the Saudis will be the first to condemn Zionist aggression — all the while breathing huge sighs of relief.
Opponents of economic sanctions and other tactics aimed at preventing Iran from going nuclear say it’s all about Israel — and therefore not worth the attention of the international community. The WikiLeaks documents reveal just how flimsy that propaganda is.
There were useful insights in the WikiLeaks dump, but that does not offset our concern about the impact of the leaks and the motives of the leakers. Diplomacy is all about building trust; leaking private cables is all about undermining it.