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. ted

    Are you American or not?

    November 29, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jon D Gustafson

    My local government has a higher GNP than Iran LOL. I can't wait for the new Disneyland in Iran it will be fun dressing them up in Mickey Mouse outfits for our tourist dollars.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      Do you have any idea how racist you sound?

      November 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      Do you realize how racist you sound?

      November 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mom

    ted I always wonder that about these ramblers

    November 29, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SHOBiz

    Tick tock buddy. Where are they?

    November 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mom

    ted, methinks he's telling tall tales.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ted

    It's probably Ahmadinejad himself, crazy-ass little weasel.

    November 29, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Moshe Zuckerman

    Hey Mehdi,

    you need to commit yourself immediatley. You need a shrink right away

    November 30, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. hurf durf

    I AM A HUGE GLENN BECK SUPPORTER. I ALSO THINK BILL O"REILLY IS THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN THE NEWS BUSINESS. FOX IS THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS, CNN IS MADE FOR BIASED LIBERAL HOMERS. GO PALIN 2012!!! OH YEAH AND WE NEED TO NUKE IRAN, NORTH KOREA, CHINA. THAT IS ALL.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • mom

      i think i love you. lol

      November 30, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. mom

    new country? Then I guess you chose the USA for your vacation? You really do hate it here, dont you?? heehee silly boy. it's been so fun, goodnight <3

    November 30, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. hurf durf

    these problems would not be happening if we still had GEORGE DUBYA people!! he is the best president the US ever had, AND ITS NOT EVEN CLOSE. Obama is worse than BOB DOLE, and BOB DOLE wasn't even prseident!!!!!111!

    November 30, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      he could've been a contender BOB DOLE. damn that erectile dysfunction.

      November 30, 2010 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
    • mom

      hurf durf I'd vote for you 😉

      November 30, 2010 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Ummm, this was happening during W's administration. haro?

      November 30, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. college guy

    Amazing how the media continues to vilify Iran and continue brainwashing the people to hate Iran. Just amazing. I am amazed at this Nazi BS.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Hellno tothe Burqua

      College guy– too much liberal propaganda being taught at your university? Take a vacation to Iran and visit some terrorists. See if they don't behead you just like all the other westerners they capture. Iran is financially connected to the all and encouraging, not the least apologetic, of terrorism. Try to reason with them first just like your college professors do with you- maybe they'll let you finish talking before they torture you.

      November 30, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      Can you even cite a single instance of beheading of foreigners in Iran you moron? CollegGuy is right, it is typical Nazi tactic to paint all of a people with single negative characteristic. Important to identify Abahmehnijad's problematic leadership but to say they are a nation of head chopping terrorists is laughable.

      November 30, 2010 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
    • mom

      Hellno tothe Burqua is very smart.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
    • DR.DJ

      Hellno tothe Burqua
      try and search some before you reply ,Persians are famous for their hospitality and being friendly towards foreigners.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Knightly Q. Blowguns

      Hellno tothe Burqua, I'm not going to argue against your point but I'd like for you to be very aware of the words you're using. A terrorist is a very specific thing. It's not just a blanket term for people who don't like America (and by the way, the PEOPLE of Iran, not the leaders, are actually quite fond of Western culture). The people we're fighting in Iraq typically aren't terrorists either. They're insurgents. There is a HUGE difference there. An insurgent in Iraq fights to get you out of Iraq. A terrorist in Iraq fights because you've saved them a trip. If you aren't using the right words then you're cheapening their meaning. When Americans are fighting and dying over the difference between an insurgent and a terrorist, I think we owe it to them to understand what that difference is.

      Now as for your name, I happen to think that telling a woman she can't wear a burqa is just as bad as telling her she must. Why not let her decide?

      November 30, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. SHOBiz

    Same retoric over and over Mehdi. You must be a mindless bot.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. nico viko

    This some funny shyte u guys talking abouy.lol

    November 30, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hellno tothe Burqua

    You are a freak. We will dance on your terrorist graves.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Hellno tothe Burqua

    don't forget murdering, women abusing, uneducated, religious zealot TERRORISTS. ....oh wait, that's YOU!

    November 30, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
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