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. Jim

    Someone really needs to stop these leakers before they start a war.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. Hellno tothe Burqua

    you are so freaking hot, Dr. Bad. What are you wearing right now?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    I know this is lookism, but every time I see this nincompoop, I thinks he looks like W's dumber cousin. Am I the only one?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Bo the commie

      I see a terrorist.

      November 30, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. MoeL

    Why don't Arab states take out their own? Why drag in the USA? Probably an oil deal somewhere for the USA. If true, this is just sick. No wonder China is calling North Korea (got that Palin...North Korea) a spoiled child. In my opinion, I think the Arab states, and North Korea needs to take care of their own business....sick as it is, and leave out the USA. Then again, why does the USA want to be involved anyway? I am almost sure that most Americans are not up for anymore wars, regardless of what we are told they are about....we, Americans, never learn the truth (if ever) until the wars are over. I implore these sick politicans of ours to just bring home our soliders....I am sure they have had enough of your games. Time for America to take care of Americans, and not try to police the world.....it will never end in peace.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Truth Seeker

      Anyone ever wonders who should be held accountable for 500,000 innocent Iraqi deaths? They had nothing to do with 911, or WMD. They did not threaten any of us or try to invade us. What do we say to the world? Oops we are sorry? I did not even here that? Isn't this genocide? I can still see chard bodies of babies and mothers crying while punching their heads. Who are we and what have we become? and for what? For bigger cars, or bigger homes or boats? Why can't we stand up for the week? Why can't we see people from far away land as our equal? Are we ignorant and hopeless? If there is a God, was this the grand plan? Was Moses, Jesus and Mohamad part of this plan or all man made stories passed on till now.
      The universe is huge with very little life and we are killing life like it was part of the plan. An Evil plan maybe?

      November 30, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. Hellno tothe Burqua

    You are a piece of haram filth. Is this the way that those who love Allah talk? You are serving the devil and all that is in your heart is hatred and malice. Look in the mirror buddy. Allah hates your talk, your actions, and what's in your heart.

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

      wow, you have a direct line to Allah?

      "In Islamic tradition, there are 99 Names of God each of which evoke a distinct characteristic of Allah. Among the 99 names of God, the most famous and most frequent of these names are "the Merciful" (al-rahman) and "the Compassionate" (al-rahim).

      November 30, 2010 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • mom

      He is merciful, not blind.

      November 30, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      Hellno tothe Burqua is saying God Hates You to a petty CNN poster about their tiny words.

      And I am saying that its doubtful anything as trivial as CNN comments can invoke the wrath of God.

      Otheerwise he truly would have to be blind.

      November 30, 2010 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Vanilla Gorilla

      you are talking about Arab oral tradition and allowing for the different dialects and the words having a different meaning from tribe to tribe
      the Koran is where the theology lies and where it has been corrupted – they had no written language – and the really scary part is that the Iranians or Persians were the smart ones in the day – and the Persians look down on the other Arabs. Here comes the 12th imam – duck and cover.

      November 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tomcat

    @dr bad did you get your fire truck yet?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. Hellno tothe Burqua

    Are you going to go wash your face and hands and pray to Mecca after writing all this vile hatred? Don't you have a bomb to go make? A woman to beat? Some children to blow up??? Allah hates what is in your heart and you are serving evil.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Truth Seeker

    Anyone ever wonders who should be held accountable for 500,000 innocent Iraqi deaths? They had nothing to do with 911, or WMD. They did not threaten any of us or try to invade us. What do we say to the world? Oops we are sorry? I did not even here that? Isn't this genocide? I can still see chard bodies of babies and mothers crying while punching their heads. Who are we and what have we become? and for what? For bigger cars, or bigger homes or boats? Why can't we stand up for the week? Why can't we see people from far away land as our equal? Are we ignorant and hopeless? If there is a God, was this the grand plan? Was Moses, Jesus and Mohamad part of this plan or all man made stories passed on till now.
    The universe is huge with very little life and we are killing life like it was part of the plan. An Evil plan maybe?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. Patrick A

    3 Puppets,corrupt Arab leaders,all of them Worse as dictators then Ahmadinejad,want the US to bomb Iran how nice.
    i hope someday Iran remember that and drop the First on them first, then march on to that little corridor and flatten the one Causing all this hostility in the Middle east .
    We have been stealing Arab OIL for the past 100 years,the first 40 years even then they Never hated US,until those Khazar Zionist Crooks moved there.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      Stealing? Then how does the Monarchy stay so rich?

      November 30, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Leatherneck

    Wow...Truth seeker. Did you record what you saw on tv? Is that why you can still see images in your head? I can still see them afraid for their lives because of a common enemy we share and anger for the inability to defend themselves without us.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Islam is peaceful

    Islam is peaceful...except for the intense hatred of all other religions! Oh, and there is this small problem called the Sunni-Shia conflict (which has been going on since the death of Mohammed), where both of the major sects of Islam consider the other to be apostates. Oh, and the longest war of the 20th century was between 2 islamic countries (Iran and Iraq), in which over 500,000 people were killed. Oh, yeah, 1 more thing, in Islamic countries, the punishment for leaving the religion of Islam is execution. BUT, "there must is no compulsion in religion" as written in the Koran. No contradictions here. Move along people.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      All religions have their crazies, Islam is not a violent religion. Those who misrepresent it are no more its rightful spokespeople than Pat Robertson is spokesman for all Christians. He has his own little cult – but most Christians are not inclined to follow a pastor who advocates political assassination (as PR did with Chavez).

      Nazis were all Christians, so if participants defined that religion, that would be a damn shame for Christianity no?

      November 30, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • mom

      Thank you.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • mom

      (that thank you was for islam is peaceful btw)

      November 30, 2010 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
    • capnmike

      Yeah...Islam is peaceful....and the moon is made of green cheese. The Ottoman Empire was spread by VIOLENCE...and it's happening again.

      November 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      Yeah, a religion that clearly states in its holy book that it is the duty of all male adherents to conquer the "infidel" (ANYONE who doesn't already follow their religion,) and convert them or put them to death, (which was later modified to give the option of paying a special tax in lieu of converting once it was realized the Muslims were incapable of running the territories they conquered without the indigenous peoples to do the work and maintain the foreign trade.) Yeah, a real "religion of peace".......

      December 2, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Skeptic

    "at this point there is no evidence available to prove or disprove the claim."
    As far as you know.
    "Therefore, any claim that North Korea has recently strengthened its ties with Iran and bolstered Iran’s military capability is conjecture."
    Again, as far as you know.

    November 30, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. samsom street

    Your smartest post yet Herr Doctor.

    November 30, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. jryan

    Future dead man. Just a matter of time.

    November 30, 2010 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. tigrr

    Evidince is mounting that Saudis and Israelis want to drag America into their war against Iran. How many Politicans have been bribed into this effort? As former CIA warned about the Bushs and Cheney – "They will create a problem to get the solution they want..." That is why 9/11 happened. What will the excuse be this time? Wake up America, and like thie Founding Fathers, question the lies and bs coming from your "kings and tyrantts".

    November 30, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
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