November 30, 2010
WikiLeaks reveals secrets, backroom dealmaking—and cluelessness
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In condemning the leaks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that they represent policy making only in its most nascent stages. Once the heavy hitters get involved, the policy is changed. So the content of the leaked cables is not of vital importance, she tried to argue.
“I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington,” Clinton said. “Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world.”
But the cables reveal policy discussions in blunter terms, and show the inner workings of inter-governmental relationships that the parties would rather have kept private.
Saudi Arabia, for example, is shown in the cables to be beating the war drum for a U.S. attack against Iran – a stance quite different from its public posture. In a 2008 meeting, the Saudi ambassador to United States reminded U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who commands U.S. forces in the Middle East, about the multiple times Saudi King Abdullah called on the United States to “cut off the head of the snake”—attack Iran to stop its nuclear program. The message is not consistent: Other cables describe meetings in the Persian Gulf with Arab officials—including Saudis—who counsel against a strike, saying that the backlash would be incalculable.
The cables least prone to such disparity may be those that describe meetings with Israeli officials. Successive Israeli prime ministers and defense ministers all say the same things – and in the same ways that they do in briefings with reporters.
Meeting this week with Israeli reporters after WikiLeaks began publishing the cables, Netanyahu said the Israeli government takes pains to make sure the most sensitive discussions between the two countries are kept private.
“It influences our work, what we do in meetings, who we bring into meetings, what we say in them, and when we narrow the meeting to two people,” he was quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post.
The most important exchanges between the U.S. and Israeli governments are not detailed in the cables, because top U.S. and Israeli political leaders speak to each other directly. The cables leaked by WikiLeaks, about 1 percent of which have been published so far, have low secrecy classifications and were written by relatively low-level diplomats. They were stored in a computer system to which more than 2 million people had clearance to access. This week, newspapers reported that U.S. private Bradley Manning, who is facing trial in another leaks case, is allegedly behind the leaks to WikiLeaks.
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