Some might say he is troublemaking or foolish. Since he released earlier caches of US military documents on Afghanistan and Iraq, he’s had to go underground for fear of reprisals. He regularly alters his appearance and camps out on friends’ sofas. Nobody knows for sure where he is now but there’s a suspicion that he’s traveling around the UK.With the release of American diplomatic cables on Sunday evening, published by newspapers in the US, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, Assange has “target’ written on his back. Once again, Washington shies away from explaining itself in favor of shooting the messenger when the blame should go to those responsible for US national security. If America has failed to guard its own secrets, it deserves to be embarrassed.Assange’s website and Twitter page has come under attack, US lawyers are attempting to take him to court as a spy, Peter King, a New York Republican Congressman wants WikiLeaks to be designated “a terrorist organization” that will open the door to assassination squads, and the Swedish appeals court has upheld an arrest warrant accusing Assange of rape that has been forwarded to Interpol.
But however the powers that be decide to punish Assange, the grim truth is out there and may irreparably damage State Department diplomacy for the foreseeable future.Thus far, comparatively few of the 251,287 leaked US Embassy cables, dating from 1966 until the end of February 2010, have been put into the public domain; the rest are to be published in stages over the coming months, leaving the State Department on tenterhooks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just begun a tour of the Arabian Gulf and Asia during which she will, no doubt, have much red-faced explaining to do.President Barack Obama has yet to address the leaks, preferring to spend time on the basketball court…and who can blame him! Usual diplomatic damage control isn’t helpful when world leaders now know exactly what the US government really thinks about them. The macho Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin might be flattered to be known as an “Alpha Dog” but President Dmitry Medvedev will be furious at being characterized as a “pale and hesitant” person who “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman”.Other leaders whose feathers have been ruffled include the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, “an emperor with no clothes, with a thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style”, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who “avoids risk and is rarely creative”, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi labeled “feckless and vain”, the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likened to “Hitler”, the Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi thought of as “strange”, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai described as “paranoid” and the North Korean leader Kim-Jong-Il who was called “a flabby old chap”.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron must be bracing to learn what unflattering comments were written about him that The Guardian newspaper promises to reveal later in the week. The Tory leader has been warned that the Americans don’t think too highly of him. Cables yet to be published are expected to cast aspersions on former British PM Gordon Brown, the British military’s record in Afghanistan, and a member of the royal family said to have behaved inappropriately. The British Foreign Office has condemned the leaks and stresses upon the importance of the “special” trans-Atlantic relationship.However, until now there is a resounding sound of silence from Number Ten Downing Street. So much for Britain standing shoulder to shoulder with the US in its time of need to the extent of engaging in two wars of aggression that have taken a crippling toll in lives and treasure! The UK’s military establishment, in particular, must be seething while hardly a week passes when a flag-draped coffin isn’t flown home. Unsurprisingly, the only world leader to get a partial thumbs up is the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; someone who is “elegant and charming” but never keeps his promises.It can’t have made comfortable reading for world leaders and UN delegates to learn that US diplomats have been instructed by Hillary Clinton to garner their personal credit card and frequent flier numbers, iris scans, fingerprints, work schedules, e-mail addresses, fax numbers, passwords and encryption keys. This secret “National Human Intelligence Collection Directive” was sent by the State Department to its embassies all over the world.” US ambassadors can now expect to be monitored during official visits to heads of state to ensure they don’t walk away with the drinks glasses or access computers.
Aside from the hurtful rude remarks and invasions of privacy, which thicker-skinned leaders may be able to brush aside, the cables contain extremely serious revelations.They show a regional nervousness concerning Iran’s increasing nuclear capability and the need to do something about it. For example, in May last year, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told members of Congress that the international community had only six to 18 months to stop “Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons” before “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage.”And, according to US intelligence, Iran has purchased missiles from North Korea capable of reaching European capitals. One cable, dated Feb. 12, 2010, focuses on a meeting between US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the then French Defense Minister Hervé Morin who asked his American counterpart whether Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own. Gates answered in the affirmative but added that he wasn’t sure the Israelis would be successful and any such strike “would only delay Iranian plans by one to three years while unifying the Iranian people to be forever embittered against the attacker.”
We have also learned that the US has tried to bribe small countries such as Belgium to take-in Guantanamo detainees using such carrots as an official visit from Barack Obama and that Germany was pressured not to prosecute CIA operatives who abducted Khaled Al-Masri, an innocent German car salesman, for rendition to a secret prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan where he was tortured.One question yet to be answered is whether the US can ever be trusted again. Will the leaks cause a major rift between the superpower and the rest of the world or will most countries try to play the controversy down? All that we know for sure is this: With a lot more secrets bursting to get out of the box, Obama and his administration are in for the rollercoaster ride of their lives – Arabnews