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Analysts Assess Fallout From Wikileaks Revelations in Middle East

Analysts Assess Fallout From Wikileaks Revelations in Middle East

Analysts Assess Fallout From Wikileaks Revelations in Middle East

A key theme running through secret U.S. documents released by WikiLeaks is that Arab and Gulf states have a profound mistrust, if not hostility, to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Observers have often alluded to such hostility, but the just-leaked diplomatic cables paint a level of animosity never before spelled out.

Diplomatic cables from U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey note that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did not oppose a U.S. dialogue with Iran, "so long as the [U.S.] does not believe a word [the Iranians] say." Scobey also emphasized that Mr. Mubarak has a "visceral hatred" for Iran, calling Iranians 'liars' and denouncing them for trying to destabilize Egypt and the region."

The leaked documents also reveal that Saudi King Abdullah has "frequently exhorted the United States to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program." They go on to quote Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Adel al Jubeir as urging the United States to "cut off the head of the snake."

Other Arab and Gulf leaders from Bahrein, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Oman are also quoted as being worried about Iran and its nuclear program. King Hamid of Bahrein also echoes Saudi King Abdullah about the need to put an end to Iran's nuclear program "at any cost."

Well-known Saudi editor and publisher Jamal Khashoggi downplays the importance of the revelations, stressing that he did not see anything that could embarrass Saudi Arabia:

"I did not see anything which could embarrass Saudi Arabia," Khashoggi said. "The feeling about Iran in the Arab world is quite well known. But, I think what is interesting, what I expect Arab leaders in general - and not only Arab leaders - they will now be more cautious in what they say. I think even the Americans, everybody, Putin, Berlusconi, everybody will be cautious about what they say."

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr tells VOA that even Iranians appear to be captivated by the WikiLeaks revelations. He points out that a website that he is involved with translated the documents into Persian and that the site has received many visitors from Iran.

He says that much of the information in the documents is already well known, but the act of publishing the secret reports makes them official. For example, he says, Iranians know about the illness of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as well as the fact that he is worried about his own succession, but are less aware that former president Hashemi Rafsandjani was trying to replace him.

Bani Sadr mentions he recently heard from contacts inside Iran that Khamenaei hopes to impose his son Mojtaba as his successor. He adds that he believes the supreme leader visited the holy city of Qom three times recently in a bid to "distance Rafsandjani from the succession question."

The former Iranian president praises the release of the WikiLeaks documents, stressing that "diplomacy between nations must always be transparent."

He says that Iranians find the words of President Ahmadinejad to Abu Dhabi's prime minister about Tehran defeating the U.S. in Iraq and a final battle taking place in Iran proof the Iranian regime is trying to keep the country on the verge of war to paralyze the people and stop them from rising up to overthrow the government.

Middle East analyst James Denselow of King's College in London is also a bit skeptical about any cataclysmic fallout from the WikilLeaks revelations:

"For a long time the Saudis and the Iranians have been on poor terms and both leaderships have held animosities against each other, so what you do have in the Middle East is a history of people who have been on terrible terms coming together for political reasons at whatever occasion," said Denselow.

Denselow does worry that diplomats from all sides, will be "incredibly more cautious." He says the greatest loss from WikiLeaks is for American diplomats in the Middle East who are trying to extract information from the region.