Iran obtained 19 advanced missiles from North Korea, potentially giving the Islamic nation the capability of attacking Moscow and cities in Western Europe, according to embassy cables posted by WikiLeaks.org and provided to the New York Times.
U.S. officials denounced the release, coming on the eve of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s departure for a security conference in the Persian Gulf, as jeopardizing U.S. ties with foreign governments and endangering individuals. WikiLeaks began posting the cables yesterday.
The 19 North Korean BM-25 missiles, based on a Russian design known as the R-27, might give Iran the “building blocks” for producing long-range missiles, according to a Feb. 24 cable posted on WikiLeaks. The cable didn’t provide specific evidence, according to the Times, which agreed not to publish the document at the Obama administration’s request.
“North Korea and Iran have had a decades-long missile relationship and also most likely a nuclear relationship,” said Bruce Klingner, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington and former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch. “The leaking of the classified documents provides a greater sense of confidence” for analysis conducted previously by outside experts and most recently illustrated in photos from a North Korean parade, he said.
Pressured the U.S.
Diplomatic cables posted by the Guardian, which also received advance copies from WikiLeaks, indicate as far back as early 2008 Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments pressed the U.S. for attacks on Iran to stop it getting a nuclear bomb, even as some expressed concern that a military strike might destabilize the region.
The Obama administration has won stiffer United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran and sealed arms agreements such as a $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia over the next 10 years.
The State Department declined to confirm information in what WikiLeaks says is more than 250,000 documents, covering a period from December 1966 through February 2010.
“I can’t provide veracity of anything WikiLeaks has released to the media,” Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, said in an interview, adding the agency’s policy is to refrain from commenting on specific leaked materials.
About 9,000 documents were listed as containing information too sensitive to be shared with a foreign government, the New York Times said. None was listed as “top-secret,” according to the Times.
Along with the Guardian of the U.K., France’s Le Monde, Spain’s El Pais and Der Spiegel of Germany obtained the WikiLeaks documents.
On the threat from Iran, a cable posted by the Guardian quoted Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., as citing Saudi King Abdullah’s “frequent exhortations to attack Iran and put an end” to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The exchange took place in an April 20, 2008 meeting between al- Jubeir, then-U.S. Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. Central Command commander General David Petraeus, the Guardian said.
A similar tone was struck by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain in a Nov. 4, 2009 conversation with Petraeus.
King Hamad “pointed to Iran as the source of much trouble” in the region and “he argued forcefully to take action to terminate their nuclear program by whatever means necessary,” according to a classified cable.
Hamad said “the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” according to the cable cited by the Guardian.
Bahrain is home to the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters. The cable also disclosed that the king agreed to a NATO request to base Awacs air surveillance aircraft in his nation as part of increased monitoring of Iran.
Israeli military officials 14 days later in a Nov. 18, 2009, meeting with U.S. State and Defense Department officials, including Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, said 2010 would be a “critical year” for Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s capability to attack, according to a cable posted by the Guardian.
“If the Iranians continue to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more difficult to target and damage them,” the cable said, summarizing Israel’s concerns.
The cable said both sides discussed the need to avoid publicity for an “upcoming delivery” of GBU-28 bunker-buster bombs to Israel “to avoid any allegations that the U.S. is helping prepare for a strike against Iran.”
Iran’s ties with Arab nations won’t be hurt by publication of the U.S. cables, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today in a speech aired live on state television from Tehran.
“Our relations with Arab countries and our neighbors are very good, we are like brothers,” Ahmadinejad said. “They will not be affected by these reports.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed satisfaction that the WikiLeaks disclosures indicated that Arab leaders were as worried about Iran’s nuclear program as his own government.
“More and more countries, governments and leaders in the Middle East and the wider world understand that this is the fundamental threat,” Netanyahu told a news conference in Tel Aviv. “I hope the leaders will have the courage to say to their nations publicly what they’ve said about Iran.”
The leaked documents include details about governments and officials, including an episode last year in which Afghanistan’s then-vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud, was found carrying $52 million in cash while visiting the United Arab Emirates. Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan, according to the Times.
According to another cable, a Chinese contact told the U.S. embassy in Beijing in January that China’s Politburo directed an “intrusion” into Google Inc.’s local computer networks. The Google hacking was “part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government,” the New York Times said in its account of the WikiLeaks cables.
The cyber attacks in China were orchestrated by a senior politburo member who found articles critical of him using Google’s search engine, the Guardian reported. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Jessica Powell, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman at Google, weren’t immediately available today to comment on the report.
In July 2009, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, then the defense supreme commander for the United Arab Emirates, declared that Ahmadinejad “is Hitler,” the New York Times reported, citing the documents.
The Obama administration said in a statement yesterday that embassy reporting to Washington “is candid and often incomplete information,” not an expression of policy.
“Nevertheless, these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders,” according to the statement from the White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs.
Republicans also condemned the release of the cables, with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina stating on “Fox News Sunday” that “the people at WikiLeaks could have blood on their hands.”
WikiLeaks, a nonprofit group that posts information the government wants to keep confidential, previously released 400,000 documents in October related to the Iraq war and about 75,000 in July on the Afghan conflict.
An Army intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning was arrested in June at age 22 and charged with illegally releasing classified information. He had said in an online chat in May that the documents he downloaded included “260,000 State Department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world,” the New York Times reported.
The Pentagon said yesterday it will take action to prevent future reoccurrences, such as monitoring user behavior in a way similar to steps taken by credit-card companies to detect fraud. The military will also conduct security oversight inspections at forward bases and remove the ability of classified computers to download information onto removable disks.