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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. SHOBiz

    @ Mehdi General Dr Bad. What are you, on drugs? Or, just ignorant?
    You sound like the perfect candidate for the next dictator to spawn.

    November 29, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      Careful SHOBIZ or he might kile you. I'm not sure what kiling is but coming from him it sounds pretty unpleasant.

      November 30, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. GeorgeVT

    i have an idea, how about if all his neighbors take care of their own dirty business?

    November 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. davetharave

    Truth revealed .. China has just about had it with North Korea, and a great number of Arab countries have had it with Iran. Geez, perhaps soon we'll be advised of pockets of anti-Taliban sentiment being discovered in the Pakistani tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Wow.

    November 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      whoa big dave, slow down. Taliban in Pakistan? Come on.

      November 30, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
    • delilah corner

      ey samson, yes! Taliban in Pakistan. Why? you don't know it yet? lots of posts but few knowledge.

      November 30, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  4. happypirate

    I really wonder if this is a trail ballon .............. the US govnment and wikileaks out together to start another war, by getting people all ready for ................... another WAR, ........... it was a game, obama and the war mongers are trying for another WAR ...... wikileaks is fake, it is a US government operation, to gauge the world and the public, and your being feed US crap, would like another sppon full of American Governemnt CRAP, ..... WOW trick clinton and obamanation

    November 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dale

    HEy, you mean we can change the font?

    November 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      just thought i would test

      November 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      How about the team. They are gonna do good this year. Right?

      November 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric

    There's not going to be another war. Period. Every major government in the world is bankrupt, including the US and Iran. Nobody has the time, inclination, or money for another STUPID war. The handful of war mongers out there really need to get a life.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • SHOBiz

      I don't know if they are all broke, but the ones with any sense regardless of any political agenga know it is really not the answer unless just pushed as far as possible into that corner. War is such a waste of so many resources. So is hate.

      November 29, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • mom

      agreed shobiz

      November 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jimzcarz

    Hey Dr. Bad,
    My Address is 935 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20535
    Come visit me, I got a little something for ya.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • SHOBiz

      Too funny Mr. Hoover 😉

      November 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • mom

      LOL You're too funny

      November 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jon D Gustafson

    Who cares they are a second rate country that Israel will take care of very soon. They do not need Obama's permission, and I believe they do not like him much anyways. He is a threat to the American security and I can't wait for two more years for a suitable replacement with some sort of employment history.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • mom

      Amen again

      November 29, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Knightly Q. Blowguns

      Israel could give Iran one heck of a black eye. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't understand the capabilities of either nation. Problem is, you need more than a black eye to win a war. I don't know if Israel could hold its own in a long-term conflict. Things definitely wouldn't be over quickly enough for us to avoid getting involved.

      In other words, Israel might run up and slug Iran, then immediately fall back to hide behind our collective skirts. Anyone who says maybe we shouldn't protect Israel is labeled an anti-Semite. That is... problematic.

      November 30, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      How exactly is Obama a threat to American security? Ever been to an airport recently? And who exactly is a more suitable candidate for president? The morons of the GOP who dominate the news? You are just another Repub who can only bash and offer nothing positive and no evidence to support anything you say.

      November 30, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      If Israel attacks Iran, Hezbollah will fire rockets at Tel Aviv. Is that whay Netanyahoo wants? They couldn't beat them last time and now that they are apparently restocked with longer range missiles, what will happen?

      November 30, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Erick

    Drno! you are an idiot.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jon D Gustafson

    LOL, see this is what everyone is worried about. Too funny.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jon D Gustafson

    Dr. Bad LOL. Is your little furry goat not keeping you busy tonight? Go and comb your wife's mustache and be quiet!

    November 29, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • mom


      November 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mom

    mehdi really ought to seek counseling <3

    November 29, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mom

    He forgot his medication today.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jerry

    We won't put boots on the ground in a war with Iran, it'll be strictly airpower and ship-launched cruise missiles. The only way our troops face Iranian troops is if they get stupid enough to come into Iraq after us – or if they get chased into Iraq by the post-bombing rebellion of the Iranian citizenry.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • mom

      jerry do you fly a helicopter?

      November 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Laser guided cruise missle meet GPS, GPS meet Google Mapsh, laser guided cruise missle meet your target with +/-1' margin for error, again and again and again. They won't even get anything off the ground, any armored vehicles will be wiped out by laser guided bombs or missles, their "nuclear plant" will be wiped out by bunker-busters. The same goes for North Korea. Ain't technology great!?

      November 30, 2010 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jon D Gustafson

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had many goats obviously. He may actually be able to conceive with one of the larger ones.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
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