Israel says Arabs agree on Iran threat

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister said Monday that newly leaked U.S. diplomatic memos provide clear proof that the Arab world agrees with his country’s assessment that Iran is the chief danger to the Middle East.

According to the documents released Sunday by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program.

The king was one of several Arab voices in the documents calling for tough action against Iran — prompting accusations from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that the leak was intended to stir “mischief.”

“We don’t give any value to these documents,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference in Tehran. “Iran and regional states are friends. Such acts of mischief have no impact on relations between nations.”

Ahmadinejad alleged the leaks were an “organized” effort by the U.S. to stir trouble between Iran and Arab neighbors, but he insisted the effort would fail.

Arab nations just across the Persian Gulf are known to be wary of Iran’s rising regional influence, military power and nuclear activity. The leaked documents, however, reveal a much higher degree of alarm in the calls for U.S. military action.

The U.S. has helped several Arab nations in the Gulf increase their anti-missile defenses and itself has a naval presence in the region.

After condemning the leak, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that the deep concerns about Iran among Arab leaders reflect the reality.

“It should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a great concern,” she told reporters at the State Department, adding that the comments reported in the documents “confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of her neighbors.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is the greatest danger to the region. In Tel Aviv, he said the released documents proved that Israel and moderate Arab countries have far more in common than they publicly acknowledge.

“The greatest threat to world peace stems from the arming of the regime in Iran. More and more states, governments and leaders in the Middle East and in far reaches of the world understand this is a fundamental threat,” Netanyahu told a news conference.

He also suggested that a unified front against Iran could reshape the region. If “leaders will say in public what they say in private there might be a breakthrough,” he said. “Leaders should be ready to tell their people the truth.”

The release of the documents could be embarrassing to Arab nations wary of being seen as too close to America.

Among the most damaging revelations came from the Saudi king, who urged the United States to attack Iran to wipe out its alleged nuclear weapons program.

The documents also said officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran’s nuclear program to be stopped by any means and that leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil,” an “existential threat” and a power that “is going to take us to war.”

The blunt language will likely heighten tensions in the Middle East, said Eugene Rogan, the director of the Middle East Center at St. Antony’s College in Oxford.

“It is a little shocking, that they are encouraging America to take military action. That will cause bad feelings between the Iranians and Saudis,” he said. “There will be repercussions.”

The release of the hundreds of thousands of State Department documents has had explosive consequences, prompting governments around the world to ask whether the United States could be trusted.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was quoted as saying Monday that the international community should persevere with diplomacy “without giving in to the culture of suspicion,” according to the Apcom news agency. Frattini was speaking from Doha.

But Netanyahu said the world of diplomacy could be irreversibly shaken, since the risk of exposure means “it will be more difficult for talented American diplomats to put into cables and reports things they once would have.”

Netanyahu argued that the result will be bad for journalism and bad for diplomacy: “Transparency is fundamental to our society, and usually essential — but there are a few areas, including diplomacy, where it isn’t essential,” he said.


Kirka reported from London.