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. PJ

    This has conspiracy & treason written all over it. Clearly someone is trying to start the 3rd world war under Obama's watch.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bijan

    well, it seems like some American would love bomb Iran, so I give them all reason for Iranian nation to go after whatever necessary to defend themselves. Especially Israelis that love war and killing innocent people.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. News Poster

    IRAN is a country full of yellow bellied pie slingers. IRANIANS = GIRLY MEN!! Plain and simple. Nuke those sand n'gers.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      So, now it's okay to use the odious "N" word when referring to Arabs and/or Iranians?

      November 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      Right after we nuke you and all your genetically identical brethren a'hole.

      November 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rey

    Anyone else ever notice that when it comes to wars and fighting and such you never hear anything about aussie's being involved... Here go to http://www.albino and search end of the world.. Its funny but from the looks of things its going to be true soon.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. jill

    Bring back clinton!! Getting head in the oval office was the only thing he did wrong. But who could blame him

    November 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Isiah

    WikiLeaks and CNN was paid mainly by China to make good look bad and turn white into black and vice versa.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tjc360

    Wasn't Iran a year or so away from making nukes 5-10 years ago?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. capnmike

    I am curious what the papers say about that idiot to our South, Hugo Chavez...and HIS connections to NK and Iran.....and why the media are ignoring this power-hungry pig.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mom

    I wrote two replies to Mr. Jon D Gustafson, but CNN kept putting them at the end of the comments. So, I repeat myself to Mr. Jon D. Gustafson: "Do you have any idea how racist you sounded in your comment about Iranians and Disneyland?"

    How would you feel if someone made such comments about you and people of your ethnicity, whatever ethnicity that may be? What if someone made that comment, for example, about your beloved mother, or a much loved grandparent? Think before you "speak"...

    November 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ag

    It sounds like a smoker is trying to stop other from smoking – do as I say not as I do...What gives one nuclear armed nation the right to stop other nation from building what they already have – a nuclear bomb? If nations are so against a nuclear weapon (including me), then all nations should get rid of all nuclear weapons, instead of trying to stop on the bases of speculation that once they acquire a bomb they'll bring unrest to the regoin.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ian

    What you lot are not realising at looking at your posts is all of this is to do with religion something which is slowly disappearing from the UK thankfully.
    When will you realise that religion was made to scare the masses think about it people we can end life on earth make black holes go into space etc etc but cant prove theres a GOD hmmm. Did you used to believe in santa yep or even the tooth fairy yep until you got told i was all rubbish!!!!.
    I do agree that something needs to be done but hey get rid of the worshipping rubbish ps ive just had an email that theres is no god or never was there a jesus it was just a story which has been blown out or proportion!! would you beleive that NO because you have been brain washed by the churches wake up and smell the coffee you not going anywhere etc for feeding the worms in the ground.

    Rant over

    November 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • samsom street

      Some churches do a lot of good work helping people without means and never bind recipients them to their cause, some churches picket outside military funerals and dish hate on the family of the deceased. No single statement can cover such a span, and simplistic reductions like "all religion sucks" are just indicative of lazy thinking or prejudice.

      November 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tony

    "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."

    LOL! Israel is our ally, they make it sound like we (the U.S.) would just sit it out while Israel and Iran go at it. Israel's war would instantly become ours as well. While I prefer peace, one thing is for sure; if we go into Iran we CANNOT make the same mistakes we did in Iraq. It needs to be a quick clean strike, and DO NOT dismantle the entire government. That is what led to all the instability in Iraq and gave plenty of fuel for terrorist recruitment. An entire military force essentially fired and put on the streets with their guns was not a very wise decision. Everything went down the crapper after that.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. thedude

    Jon – still in denial over the WMDs? Please recall that Saddam Hussein admitted having them, used them to kill thousands of Kurds at Habalja, and his right hand man was even named "Chenical Ali." Do you live under a rock?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @thedude, yeah, and as soon as we invaded Saddam used his Star Trek transporter to make the dematerialize into the same la la land you apparently live in. You keep skipping over the part, where to this day we have yet to find any WMD's

      November 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Fariba

    Who exactly is going to pay for this glorious, romantic notion of War-With-Yet-Another-Middle-Eastern-Country? Whose children will lose their precious limbs in such a manly, beat-upon-our-muscular-chests "war"? And whose grandchildren will have to deal with the hatred that will percolate and spread like poison from such a war?

    November 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Steve

    The leaks reveal very little what is not already known. A big adieu about nothing.

    There is no doubt US allies in the region adopt the US/ISRAEL party line, how could they not do so and assure thier economic ties with the US? It was Saudis that were responsible for 9/11, not Iranians or Iraqi's. BUt the Saudi Monarchy whose hunab rights abuses wqual that of our foes are rarely mentioned, and not condemend, WHY?

    November 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
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