Sunday, 5 December 2010

WikiLeaks exposes new realities in the Middle East

Following publication of the latest WikiLeaks documents, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that, after sixty years of propaganda painting Israel as the greatest threat to the Middle East, for the first time in history there is agreement that Iran is the threat. "Israel has not been damaged at all by the WikiLeaks publications," Netanyahu told a group of editors. "The documents show many sources backing Israel's assessments, particularly of Iran."

And indeed WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has shattered the widely-held “politically correct” view about the Middle East in the 21st century.

What is the accepted dogma? That the main cause of conflict in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and that the essence of the conflict is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Current emphasis is on the settlements and their expansion. Freeze the settlements, the argument runs, the peace talks will resume, the occupation will be brought to an end, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be solved and the Middle East will be stable.

This, writes Ari Shavit in Israel’s prestigious newspaper Ha’aretz, is “a kind of core belief that cannot be questioned.” He describes it as a “truth” that “formed the world view of enlightened élites in the West and directed the policies of the Western powers.”

“Then,” continues Shavit, “along came Assange and shattered the dogma. The secret documents that WikiLeaks published proved that the settlements, the occupation and even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were not the main problem in the Middle East. Assange proved that there was no connection between the real Middle East and the Middle East they talk about in The Washington Post, Le Monde and The Guardian. He revealed that the entire Arab world is currently busy with one problem only - Iran, Iran, Iran.”

What in fact do the leaked cables reveal? If the accounts of the conversations and the opinions reported in them are accurate – and there is no reason to suppose otherwise – they show that, contrary to their public positions, Arab leaders strongly support, and are indeed campaigning for, a US attack on Iran’s growing nuclear programme. According to the leaked documents Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah “frequently exhorted” the US to bomb Iran and “cut the head off the snake.” He warned Washington that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, “everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia.”

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince is reported to have said that Iran was seeking regional domination, and urged the Americans to “take out” its nuclear capacity, or even send ground troops. Iran “is going to take us to war … it’s a matter of time.”

The king of Bahrain said the US “must terminate” Iran’s nuclear programme, “by whatever means necessary”. Zeid Rifai, then president of Jordan’s senate, said: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb.” President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt expressed a “visceral hatred” for the Islamic Republic. Even Syria, according to conversations with Turkish officials, was sounding “alarm bells.”

Britain’s future secretary of state for defence, Dr Liam Fox, told the Americans that he thought the negotiations would fail and said that “the US and UK should work together to prevent a nuclear arms race” in the Middle East.

In short no government, Arab or Western, accepts Iran’s claim that its nuclear programme is merely peaceful. More to the point, perhaps, if ever a military strike by the US, or even Israel, on Iran’s nuclear capability were deemed essential, it could scarcely be followed by a universal outcry of condemnation given what the WikiLeaks documents have revealed.

And what effect has this new truth for the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian accord? There is no doubt that the situation resulting from the Six Day War in 1967 must be resolved. The conflict is dangerous. A Palestinian sovereign state living in peace alongside Israel is the consensus objective of most parties that wish the region well. But the leaked diplomatic cables are telling us that, whether or not Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu resume the direct face-to-face talks and come to an accord, there will be no peace in the Middle East as long as the Arab world is living under Tehran's incessant threat. Iran is the heart of the problem. As long as Iran is growing stronger, is seeking nuclear weapons and is terrorizing the Middle East, there is no chance for peace.

The lesson seems to be that Iran must be dealt with, one way or another.

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