Iran ‘must be stopped’: Arab leaders pushed U.S. to attack

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Adbul Aziz al Saud at the G20 Summit in South Korea on Nov. 10, 2010. (Bullit Marquez / Associated Press)

 

 

Iran ‘must be stopped’: Arab leaders pushed U.S. to attack, WikiLeaks disclosures show

Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as among nations strongly urging the U.S. to attack Iran and destroy its nuclear facilities. The cables reveal the fear of Iran in the Arab world.

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
2:18 PM PST, November 28, 2010
Reporting from Beirut

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Leaders of the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula monarchies repeatedly have beseeched the United States to attack Iran and take out its nuclear facilities, according to a series of classified diplomatic cables released to news organizations by the website Wikileaks.

King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia and King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa of Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, were among the Arab leaders lobbying the U.S. for an attack on Iran. One Saudi official reminded Americans that the king had repeatedly asked them to “cut off the head of the snake” before it was too late.

“That program must be stopped,” one Nov. 4, 2009, cable quotes Khalifa as telling Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command. “The danger of letting it go is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

In a May 2005 meeting, Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed, deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates armed forces, urged a U.S. general to use “ground forces” against Iran even though, another cable notes, the federation did not abide by U.S. requests to interdict suspicious shipments transiting from its shores to Iran. A February 2010 document attributes Bin Zayed’s “near-obsessive” arms buildup to his fears about Iran.

“I believe this guy is going to take us to war,” Mohamed bin Zayed told a U.S. delegation in April 2006 of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “It’s a matter of time. Personally, I cannot risk it with a guy like Ahmadinejad. He is young and aggressive.”

In December 2009, the crown prince told a U.S. official: “We know your priority is Al Qaeda, but don’t forget Iran. Al Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb.”

The trove of cables contained few startling revelations about Iran. But they show how frightened the Arab world is of Iran’s rising regional ambitions and nuclear program and how much Iran has become the center of atttention in capitals around the world. At a June 2009 meeting with U.S. lawmakers, Israeli defense Secretary Ehud Barak argued that attacking Iran any later than late 2010 “would result in unacceptable collateral damage.”

During an April 2008 visit to Saudi Arabia, Petraeus and former U.S. envoy to Baghdad Ryan Crocker got an earful from officials and the king about the need to confront Iran about its nuclear program and its ambitions in Iraq. And during an April 2009 meeting, Saudi Prince Turki al Kabeer warned American, Russian and Dutch diplomats that Riyadh could not stomach Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium. “We are OK with nuclear electrical power and desalinization but not with enrichment,” he was quoted as saying.

Still, passages in several cables suggested splits within the Arab leadership over what to do with Iran. One Saudi diplomat urged Americans in 2008 to avoid war and launch talks with the Iranians. An Omani official urged Americans to take a more nuanced view of the Iranian issue and to question whether other Arab leaders’ entreaties for war were based on logic or emotion.

Several documents showed the extent to which the U.S. had been attempting to obtain detailed information on Iran’s political scene and economy by interviewing sources at American diplomatic outposts in Dubai and Azerbaijan.

The U.S., which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran for decades, relied on European allies with embassies in Tehran to gain understanding of the Islamic Republic. According to one cable, former British envoy Geoffrey Adams advised Americans to be “steady and firm, tough but not aggressive,” in negotations between Iranian and American officials in late 2007 over the security situation in Iraq.

“The current Iranian regime is effectively a fascist state, and the time has come to decide on next steps,” French diplomat Jean-David Levitte advised U.S. officials in September 2009.

The cables detail Iran’s alleged breaches of law and protocol under Ahmadinejad and his hardline entourage. A source at the U.S. consulate in Dubai alleged that Iran used the Red Crescent society to funnel weapons and militants into Iraq and Lebanon.

The documents also reveal U.S. frustration with some countries that refuse to break off ties with Iran. U.S. officials in December 2008 threatened Armenia with sanctions for allowing the transfer of arms to Iran, “which resulted in the death and injury of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.” Another cable details unsuccessful U.S. diplomatic attempts to dissuade Turkey in November 2009 from attempting to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Despite doubts that sanctions or war would curb Iran’s nuclear program, one Turkish official noted with dismay in February to U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey that everyone in the region, including Iran’s ally Syria, was worried about Iran. “Alarm bells are ringing even in Damascus,” Feridun Sinirlioglu, a Turkish diplomat, was quoted as saying.

daragahi@latimes.com

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