Five takeaways from leaked documents on Iran
November 29th, 2010
09:35 PM ET

Five takeaways from leaked documents on Iran

Iran and the approaches that governments are taking with the Islamic Republic are major topics in some of the sensitive U.S. diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks this week. The documents deal with, among other things, Iran's ties with North Korea and Arab states' concerns about their Persian neighbor. Here are five key things to know about the Iran-related documents and the effects of their release.

IRAN-NORTH KOREA TIES

Whether North Korea has strengthened its ties with Iran and recently sold Iran its most powerful missiles depends on whether you believe U.S. intelligence or Russian intelligence.

In a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks and dated February 2010, U.S. officials tell their Russian counterparts that North Korea has sold Iran 19 advanced missiles based on Russian design and capable of hitting targets in Western Europe.

The cable says the Russians dismiss the U.S. intelligence reports and call them unreliable.

"There is no evidence for this and concealment of such a transfer would be impossible," the cable quotes a Russian official as saying.

"The fact is that there have been no successful tests of this missile in either North Korea or Iran."

The U.S. intelligence assessment that North Korea has sold Iran advanced missiles certainly grabs your attention, but at this point there is no evidence available to prove or disprove the claim. Therefore, any claim that North Korea has recently strengthened its ties with Iran and bolstered Iran’s military capability is conjecture.

WHY IRAN IS DOWNPLAYING LEAKED CABLES

Iran sees itself as a regional power with aspirations to be a world power, so it doesn’t like the perception that it’s an isolated nation with few friends in its own neighborhood in the Middle East.

That’s why Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad downplayed leaked cables and called them worthless propaganda.

He called Iran’s Arab neighbors "friends and brothers."

But a look at the leaked cables depicts the Islamic Republic as a nation that's surrounded by Sunni-dominated nations with Arab leaders who are repeatedly pushing the U.S. to attack Iran.

MILITARY ACTION OR WAR COMING SOON?

There’s a lot of talk about military action against Iran in the leaked cables, but an attack against Iran doesn’t appear  imminent.

The most likely nation to launch an attack is Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and Iran's nuclear program its top security priority. But even Israeli leaders have recently reined in their drumbeats of war.

Attacking Iran would be costly. Iran could hit back by attacking Israel and shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 40 percent of the world's oil travels. Iran could further destabilize neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, something Washington can ill afford.

Attacking Iran could unify its hard-line leaders at a time when there are clear signs of rifts. Conservative Iranian lawmakers reportedly started a petition to impeach Ahmadinejad, but Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei stepped in to halt the process.

Washington and its allies are also encouraged by the effect of the fourth round of sanctions against Iran, and their official position is still engagement and negotiations first.

An attack may not be imminent, but the option is not off the table. The leaked cables show many U.S. allies are convinced Iran is going after nuclear bombs and the only way to stop it is by force.

WHY SOME ARAB STATES FEAR IRAN

Iran and many of its Arab neighbors have diplomatic relations, but behind the scenes and throughout history, relations have often been far from friendly.

Iran’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is an example.

The sectarian divide has always set the stage for friction between the two nations that have long vied to be the top dog in the region. Saudi Arabia is dominated by Sunni Muslims. Iran is led by Shias.

Iranian hard-liners have never liked that a king rules Saudi Arabia. To the Islamic Republic, kings are un-Islamic. Iranian officials have also condemned Saudi Arabia for being Washington's ally. Iran has never forgotten that during the Iran-Iraq war, Saudi Arabia sided with Iraq.

Saudi Arabia has long feared ambitions by Iran to expand its influence and establish itself as the dominant player in the region. The leaked cables show Saudi Arabia is also deeply concerned about Iran pursuing nuclear weapons.

WHAT THE DOCUMENTS REVEAL ABOUT IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

The leaked diplomatic cables reveal very little new information about Iran's nuclear program or whether it is planning to build nuclear weapons.

International inspectors say Iran is now enriching a small amount of uranium at 20 percent for a medical research lab. The 20 percent purity level is well below the 90 percent necessary for making bombs.

There is also no evidence that Iran has the missile technology to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Even so, the United States and its allies say Iran's lack of transparency and its patterns of secrecy are evidence that Iran is indeed going after bombs. How long it would take Iran to make a bomb is in dispute, with estimates varying from one year to as many as five.

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Filed under: Iran • Iraq • Julian Assange • Saudi Arabia • WikiLeaks
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. stoner

    the whole world has gone mad.....I think its time we remember john lennon

    November 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. SpeakUp

    Other countries are wrong to ask the US to attack Iran.

    November 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Cold War Veteran

    In the interest of preventing war, given fundamentally two choices for your news source (both of them inherently biased), which would you prefer? A liberal-leaning media that tends to minimize the dangers for the purpose of reducing fear and panic...or, a conservative-leaning media that tends to do the exact opposite?

    "Lack of understanding always leads to fear; and fear inevitably throughout history leads to war and destruction. Therefore, an enlightened society in order to preserve itself must take great care to empower itself with knowledge and understanding." Paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson's speech to the Continental Congress, circa 1776.

    November 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Cold War Veteran

    Iran, as with America, is trying to preserve itself in a world full of enemies. If the present political situation in the Middle East were reversed, how many of you would doubt that America would have already invaded and conquered its neighbors? Oh wait...Iraq and Afghanistan neighbor Iran. Never mind.

    November 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. lcohv

    Is this really news?

    My guess is that history will repeat itself and this time, instead of Iraq being supported by U.S., Israel will be supported by U.S. to fight Iran. Big brother sending little sibling to do the dirty work. Meanwhile, the people suffer and economies get worse.

    November 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ligie

      Interesting comments:French President Nicolas Sarkozy cellad Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a liar in remarks to US President Barack Obama overheard by journalists. I can't see him anymore, he's a liar, Mr Sarkozy said in French. You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day, Mr Obama replied.The exchange at the G20 summit was quoted by a French website, Arret sur Images, and confirmed by other media.VN:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait...

      March 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ak

    We have bigger problems of our own. How many here ignore or don't realize how close we are to the edge of oblivion?

    November 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Vanilla Gorilla

    if you have cancer – you look for a cure. if you can't cure it – you cut it out
    or we could offer radiation therapy via several well placed tactical nukes
    just waiting for an earthquake to level the place – c'mon Mother Nature give them a solid 8.5

    November 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. pooya

    @Pete Rose yes Iran is a country ,when the Iranians would celebrate their own 2300's culture .kristof kolomb Was not born yet!!

    November 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. steven

    will the bible say's all this iguess the usa and others need to pray because the end. will signs of the end

    November 30, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. tim d

    everyone should keep in mind that, just becasue a country told US something in private different than the public position does not mean the confidential information was any more reliable than the public information

    November 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Andreas Moser

    These cables show that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with an open and honest foreign policy: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/wikileaks-and-israel/

    November 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Haleh Tehran

    My dear countryman. My dear iranian. Please watch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZ8Jaq2eW28) in youtube. My dear fellow citizen of universe ask a Persian friend to watch it.

    March 26, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Wanessa

    Maybe Mir Hussein should have run for pdseirent north of the border. He is guaranteed to win because they are all Azeri :-) Also, the US would never give its moral support to those who claim fraud in the elections there The best thing that could happen to the Republic of Azerbaijan is an Islamic revolution and the establishment of an Islamic Republic there :-)Azerbaijan strongman to cement power in pollsBy Emil Guliyev (AFP) – 1 hour agoBAKU — Azerbaijan voted Sunday in parliamentary elections set to cement President Ilham Aliyev's firm grip on power but condemned by the opposition as a charade whose result has been ordained in advance.The opposition has urged the West not to ignore democratic violations in the energy-rich former Soviet state, which has been courted since the collapse of the Soviet Union by foreign governments as a key source of oil and gas.The ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party insists the election will be fair and credits Aliyev with steering the country to healthy economic growth since taking over in 2003 from his late father Heydar, a top former Soviet official. The election is being held normally and transparently. All candidates have equal opportunities, Yeni Azerbaijan deputy executive secretary Mubariz Gurbanly told AFP after polls had opened.Critics, however, have accused authorities of preparing to falsify the vote by rejecting the registration of dozens of the main opposition bloc's candidates, using state influence on the media to limit debate and refusing to grant permission for opposition meetings.Opposition leader Ali Karimli said after voting that it was already clear that violations were taking place, saying each undemocratic election is a blow to Azerbaijan?s international image. In some districts multiple voting has been taking place, said Karimli, the head of the Azerbaijani Popular Front party which along with the Musavat party is running as the main opposition bloc.The election will see about 700 candidates vying for 125 seats in the country's parliament, the Milli Mejlis.Parliament is currently dominated by Yeni Azerbaijan, which holds 64 seats against only a handful for the opposition, following elections in 2005 that the opposition denounced as fraudulent.Analysts have predicted the ruling party will easily secure enough votes to maintain its dominance of parliament.Aliyev was overwhelmingly re-elected pdseirent in 2008 and last year Azerbaijan voted to scrap a two-term limit on the presidency, a move critics said was aimed at extending his hold on power.In a brief statement, the pdseirential administration said only that Aliyev had voted along with his wife Mehriban.Voting for the first time, 18-year-old student Gyunai Bairamova said she had supported Yeni Azerbaijan because it was the only party capable of making a difference. I voted for the ruling party candidate because I believe they are the only ones who can work for us, she said after casting her vote at a polling station in the capital Baku.Shamil Gasymov, a 41-year-old engineer, said he had voted for the opposition because he believed the ruling party cared little for the problems of ordinary Azerbaijanis. The only ones in parliament who are raising people's problems are the opposition. The other deputies only care about protecting or praising the authorities. They have forgotten about the people, he said.The mainly Muslim country bordering Iran is considered key to Western efforts to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian oil and gas and is a transit route for US troops and supplies headed to Afghanistan.The opposition has accused Western countries of tempering criticism of rights abuses in Azerbaijan in order to protect their strategic interests.Polls opened at 8 am local time (0400 GMT) and were to close at 7 pm (1500 GMT). About 4.9 million people were registered to vote and the Central Election Commission (CEC) is expected to begin releasing results later Sunday, after polls close.Two hours after polls opened, voter turnout had reached 10.6 percent, the CEC said.The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has sent about 300 observers to monitor the vote and is to release a statement on the conduct of the election Monday.Copyright a9 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Toru

    Like you, I think I enjoyed the cnsoed one more than the first. Not many people agree with me on that (from what I've seen). I really need to get my grubby paws on her others: Embroideries and Chicken with Plums.

    March 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Toru

    Like you, I think I enjoyed the cnsoed one more than the first. Not many people agree with me on that (from what I\'ve seen). I really need to get my grubby paws on her others: Embroideries and Chicken with Plums.

    March 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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