In January 2008 we wrote EU and Iran: No Chance for Sanctions to Work. Eight months later we made the case for The Coming War with Iran in view of Teheran’s ideologically-driven intransigence over its nuclear program. In the latter, we not only asserted that military action was almost inevitable if Teheran refuses — as it obviously has — to play diplomatic ball, but that an Israeli-US strike would not only not lead to an ensuing “conflagration across the Middle East” as “experts” repeatedly tout, but it would be actively welcomed by Iran’s regional neighbors.
In what is undoubtedly the greatest single revelation of the current WikiLeaks release of US security documents, we find that far from over-stating our case, we actually under-stated it. Plainly, not only do the Middle East Arab capitals fear Teheran’s intentions more than Israel’s, reversing what Western academics and diplomats keep telling us, but they have actively urged the US to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites.
First, here’s what we said in 2008:
But Israel also understands something the U.N., the E.U., and even some U.S. generals don’t appear to grasp: how a Western-backed Israeli military strike to stifle Shia Iranian ambitions is likely to play beneath the public façade of the usual rhetoric of the Middle East’s Sunni Arab leadership. We see no reason to change our opinion that an Israeli or Western airstrike is the only realistic way to prevent Iran’s ideologically-driven extremist regime from pursuing its publicly stated “foreign policy commitment” toward Israel. Our point about the lack of Arab Muslim support for Iran was in response to the fact that more than 12 Sunni Muslim states, nervous over Iran’s regional ambitions, have consequently jumped on the nuclear bandwagon. It seems their confidence in U.N. style diplomacy with Iran matches our own.
Sure enough, young Islamist hotheads will be in the streets of Middle Eastern capitals in the event of a strike. For appearance’s sake, Arab Muslim leaders will condemn Israeli actions in the Western media. But ultimately, as Bolton has dryly observed, “There’ll be public denunciations but no action.” Just beneath the rhetoric, one will likely detect an enormous collective sigh of relief, from Riyadh to Amman to Cairo.
Western experts, however, assured us that an attack would be sure to ignite the Arab-Muslim world and set off a conflagration across the Middle East that could easily lead to World War Three.
Instead, we find that the latest batch of WikiLeaks confirms a vastly different Iranian “de-nuking” end game. Here’s what, according to WikiLeaks’ U.S. security expose, Iran’s “friends” have been privately urging on the United States (with thanks to The Israel Project website for collating these examples as published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel):
- Saudi King Abdullah repeatedly urged the United States to destroy the Iranian program. “He told you [Americans] to ‘cut off the head of the snake,'” the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, said, according to a report on Abdullah’s meeting with the U.S. general David Petraeus in April 2008. Abdullah told a US diplomat: “The bottom line is that they [the Iranians] cannot be trusted.”
- Officials from Jordan also called for the Iranian program to be stopped by any means necessary, while leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil” and an “existential threat.”
- Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could let it strike at Western European capitals and Moscow.
- Crown Prince bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi said in one cable: “Any culture that is patient and focused enough to spend years working on a single carpet is capable of waiting years and even decades to achieve even greater goals.” His greatest worry, he said, “is not how much we know about Iran, but how much we don’t.”
- Kuwait’s military intelligence chief told Petraeus that Iran was supporting Shi’ite groups in the Gulf and extremists in Yemen.
- The United States failed to stop Syria from supplying arms to Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, who have amassed tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel. One week after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised a top State Department official that he would not send new arms to Hezbollah, the United States said it had information that Syria was providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to the group.
- Iran smuggled weapons to Hezbollah in ambulances and medical vehicles in violation of international conventions. Hamas also used such vehicles for military and arms-smuggling operations.
- Iran withheld from the International Atomic Energy Agency the original design documents for a secret nuclear reactor.
Clearly Iran’s Arab-Muslim neighbors fear Iran far more than they fear Israel — and so another Western academic liberal myth bites the dust. More significantly, if Iran succeeds in producing atomic weapons of mass destruction, it seems that Middle Eastern leaders fear that that in itself would trigger a regional nuclear arms race — offering the prospect of the Middle East “conflagration” so many fear.
But, on a much more positive note, what this latest WikiLeaks revelation does, apart from confirming Iran has no regional friends, is greatly strengthen the hand of negotiators. Life experience dictates that bullies, once isolated, quickly lose resolve. And we see no reason to believe that the Ayatollah’s thuggish regime is any different in its bullying nature.
Michael Economides is the editor-in-chief and Peter Glover is the international correspondent of the Energy Tribune.