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. samsom street

    I'm in the room next to you. Stick your head out the door why don't you.

    November 30, 2010 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. mom

    merciful, not blind.

    November 30, 2010 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Stephen

    Don't forget that the hard part about enriching is in the beginning so it is likely that if you can enrich it to 20% the other 70% might be even easier. It is hardest when you have fractions of a percent.

    November 30, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. Reality Check

    The American people have no stomach for war, it's as simple as that. They want any conflict over in a couple of months. People need to wake up and understand that war and it's consequences can last decades and generations.

    November 30, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Marshall

    I hear a lot of people asking why the USA along with Canada,Britain ext.have to be the ones always doing the invading and starting war?Why we can't just bring our troops home and let them handle there own problems?Especially since we have not really been attacked be any of these other countries or even provoked into war.The reason is power,control and the United States quest for a one world government.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. trinh

    Nuke to wipe Iran out of the map bedore Iran uses Nuclear to attack the world. Do it now before it is too late.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      You do realize that a nuke capable of wiping out Iran will end up killing everybody. It's called radiation.

      November 30, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Marco

    truth seeker are you out of your mind let me guess u a type of person thats looks for PEACE .........for your imformation the world is not a good place and we need to do things that r harsh sometimes dont come here and write dumb things.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Redeye Dog

    Wikileaks=CNNleaks=The CNN Reality Reporting Show=The fall of credible journalism.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Awake Now

      You got that right. CNN has become a mouthpiece for our most favored 51st state – Israel, a/k/a "The Golden Child Who Can Do No Wrong". ICNN provides the bully pulpit and disseminates the propaganda. Of course, this 51st state is particularly fortunate because not only does it not have to pay taxes, or be held accountable, it actually has received billions of dollars of our hardearned tax dollars. Sweet deal. Who would want to pass that up? (Now I sit back to see if CNN omits my comment)

      November 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NewRome

    Let us consult with Justin Bieber and ask what he thinks of these new developments.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bobby

    Listen to Russian intelligence. They warned of 9/11 and no one reacted to it, hense the result.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      So did the show, 'The Lone Gunman'. lol

      November 30, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. jorge washinson

    Maybe the Russians are right when they say there has been no successful test of the of the weapon. Maybe they knew when they sent it it would not work.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. lblt

    Yet another example of how this administration can't do anything right. When is Hillary Clinton going to resign over this?

    November 30, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      And how exactly is this her fault?

      November 30, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. jill

    Ignorance is bliss ehhhh???? Here we are attacking each other. Attack who deserves is. Our government only allows us to hear what they want. Nothing was leaked that we weren't supposed to know

    November 30, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. jill

    Grow up people. Get a life instead of sitting in front of computer to what seemed to be all night for some just being nasty. Judging people u don't even know. Our own country is in such trouble n here u are all insulting each other. My 4 year old behaves better than u ppl.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. jill

    Grow up people. Get a life instead of sitting in front of computer, to what seemed to be all night for some, just being nasty. Judging people u don't even know. Our own country is in such financial trouble n here u are all insulting each other. My 4 year old behaves better than u ppl.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • peggy

      I agree

      November 30, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
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