With more than 250,000 documents that are to be released over a period of several months – Wikileaks is definitely going to be the name on everyone’s lips.
Julian Assange and his band of merry men are trying very hard to bring a lot of previously unpublished facts to light. A treasure trove of almost a quarter of a million confidential US diplomatic cables have brought Wikileaks into instant whistle-blowing lime light.
In this first installment secrets from around the world, most particularly from the Middle East and Europe take central position. According to Wikileaks, the quarter-million documents reveal ‘contradictions’ between the public image of the United states and what it says and does behind closed doors. It ‘shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what's going on behind the scenes.’
Known as the cablegate, the latest release provides a clear outline of what goes around in international relations albeit behind closed doors. The confidential American diplomatic cables are from the past three years and contain a treasure of back door diplomacy and bargains – providing a blunt, even vicious outlook at foreign leaders.
Most interesting though are details on the personal habits of the world leaders. The cables have reduced the world’s most influential leaders who are manning their countries to nothing more than fickle and troublesome figures. The diplomatic cables provide and unabashed insight into the minds of these leaders.
Silvio Berlusconi is described as ‘physically and politically weak’ at home, and ‘feckless, vain, and ineffective’ European leader.
His “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest", one observed.
US diplomats in Rome also raised concerns over contracts between Italy and Russia and a “shadowy” Russian-speaking Italian who acted as a go-between.
In a cable, the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, was referred to as an “emperor with no clothes”.
The diminutive leader was seen as “thin-skinned”, and “authoritarian” in his personal style, with a tendency to rebuke his senior team repeatedly for their alleged shortcomings, according to the US embassy in Paris.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev might be the President – but according to the diplomatic cables, its just in name. Medadev is called Robin to Prime Minister Putin’s Batman. The real power therefore, rests with Prime Minister Putin.
Putin, in a diplomatic cable, is described as an ‘alpha dog’. According to several cables, he shares a ‘remarkably close’ relationship with Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi because of this image.
The pair reportedly exchanged “lavish gifts” and US officials were concerned that Berlusconi was becoming “the mouthpiece of Putin” in Europe.
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, according to an American cable, ‘avoids risks and is rarely creative’. She is nicknamed Angela ‘Teflon’ Merkel because nothing sticks to her, and according to another cable, approaches international relations with an aim to get as much domestic profit as she can.
Most interesting though are habits of the South Asian and Middle Eastern leaders, as well as details that more than a few called on the United States to hit Iran.
Saudi Arab / UAE
The Saudis also demanded ‘severe US and International sanctions on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on bank lending’. The Saudi ambassador to Washington let the US know that King Abdullah wanted the White house ‘to cut the head off the snake’ before Iran developed nuclear weapons and threatened its Middle Eastern neighbors. ‘The use of military pressure against Iran’ it argued, ‘should not be ruled out’.
In addition to King Abdullah, several other leaders, including the King of Bahrain and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed had much to say on the topic of Iran. The ruler of Bahrain warned the US, ‘The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it’. While the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi cautioned the US that he believed that Iran's tyrannical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was 'going to take us to war'.
According to a released cable Libyan Colonel Gaddafi, "cannot travel" without what one diplomat described as his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse. According to the report, he was afraid of staying on the upper floors and disliked flying over water. Gaddafi, in addition to voluptuous blondes also enjoyed horse racing and flamenco dancing and was upset when he was refused permission to pitch his Bedouin tent in New York City.
According to the cables, the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was viewed as “dismissive, bored and impatient” during a meeting. He also reportedly told General Patraeus that, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours”.
Iran, it appears, is on everyone’s mind in the international world. The US cables compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Adolf Hitler. In addition to all of that, most remarkable are the views of the Saudi Arbian King who urged America to take military action against Iran so as to destroy its nuclear program.
According to one cable, the US believed that Iran was attempting to adapt rockets from North Korea for use as long-range ballistic missiles that could strike capitals in Western Europe. Also present in the cables were fears that Iran was secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and had managed to produce its first small of high-grade enriched uranium.
Afghan President Hamid Karazi, the cable stated, is nothing more than a paranoid, feeble man. He was portrayed as an “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him”. A cable also stated that when Afghanistan’s vice-president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash
With more information being released over the next few months, it remains to be seen what changes in the international relations these diplomatic cables will bring. As more and more information is brought to public, it can be assumed that the fall out for the United States would be massive. But the most vital detail that emerged from this cable-gate, other than making a mess of US diplomacy and bringing to light the paranoia, is the level of antagonism that exists between the Arab countries. What will the face of international relations be post-cablegate is the question that is on everyone’s minds. We, just like everyone, are holding our breath for more.