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Nov 28th, 2010

Cables Obtained by WikiLeaks Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels

Cache of confidential diplomatic cables amounts to secret chronicle of U.S. relations with the world in an age of terrorism and war

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, left, with William J. Burns, a State Department official, in Damascus. (Image credit: Louai Beshara /Agence France-Presse — Getty Images via New York Times)

By Scott Shane and Andrew W. Lehren

November 28, 2010

Excerpts and annotations

WASHINGTON — A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.

Some of the cables, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, were written as recently as late February, revealing the Obama administration’s exchanges over crises and conflicts. The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks intends to make the archive public on its Web site in batches, beginning Sunday. …

The cables, a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates, amount to a secret chronicle of the United States’ relations with the world in an age of war and terrorism.

Among their revelations, to be detailed in The Times in coming days:

¶ A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. …


Sidebar: Related reports on this site

Soldiers secure the perimeter of Pakistan’s army headquarters after a deadly attack on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. (Photo credit: Adrees Latif / Reuters)

Pakistan’s Taliban ‘Double Game’ (June 13, 2010)

Afghan War Expands to Region (Oct. 8, 2009)


¶ Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. …


Sidebar: Related report on this site

Image: Smoke rises from South Korea's Yeonpyeong island near the border against North Korea
Fires burn on Yeonpyeong island, South Korea, after an artillery barrage from North Korea on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010. (Photo credit: Yonhap / AP)

Perilous Flare-Up of Korean War (Nov. 24, 2010)


¶ Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: 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. …


Sidebar: Related reports on this site

Image: Aerial view of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai
An aerial view shows the Palm Jumeirah development in Dubai in December. Villas purchased in the development are part of the Afghanistan bank scandal. (Photo credit: Matthias Seifert / Reuters)

Run on Bank in Afghanistan (Sept. 2, 2010)

Afghanistan in ‘Downward Spiral’ (Oct 10, 2008)


¶ Arms deliveries to militants: Cables describe the United States’ failing struggle to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel. One week after President Bashar al-Assad promised a top State Department official that he would not send “new” arms to Hezbollah, the United States complained that it had information that Syria was providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to the group. …


Sidebar: Related report on this site

Image: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beirut
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, waves to the crowds from the sunroof of his SUV, upon his arrival in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. (Photo credit: Mahmoud Tawil / AP)

Ahmadinejad Show of Strength (Oct. 13, 2010)


The 251,287 cables, first acquired by WikiLeaks, were provided to The Times by an intermediary on the condition of anonymity. Many are unclassified, and none are marked “top secret,” the government’s most secure communications status. But some 11,000 are classified “secret,” 9,000 are labeled “noforn,” shorthand for material considered too delicate to be shared with any foreign government, and 4,000 are designated both secret and noforn. …

Terrorism’s Shadow

The cables show that nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States’ relations with the world. …

Even when they recount events that are already known, the cables offer remarkable details.

For instance, it has been previously reported that the Yemeni government has sought to cover up the American role in missile strikes against the local branch of Al Qaeda. But a cable’s fly-on-the-wall account of a January meeting between the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the American commander in the Middle East, is nonetheless breathtaking.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Mr. Saleh said, according to the cable sent by the American ambassador, prompting Yemen’s deputy prime minister to “joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament” that Yemeni forces had carried out the strikes. …


Sidebar: Related reports on this site

Yemenis protest in the Radfan district of Lahj on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 against a government raid that targeted suspected al-Qaida members. (Photo credit: AFP — Getty Images)

Uncertain Ally Against al-Qaida (Jan. 9, 2010)

Battle Lines Are Drawn in Yemen (Jan. 2, 2010)

Obama Opens Third War Front (Dec. 28, 2009)

Obama Fires Missiles into Yemen (Dec. 19, 2009)


The cables also disclose frank comments behind closed doors. Dispatches from early this year, for instance, quote the aging monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, as speaking scathingly about the leaders of Iraq and Pakistan.

Speaking to another Iraqi official about Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, King Abdullah said, “You and Iraq are in my heart, but that man is not.” …


Sidebar: Related report on this site

Mahmoud Amadinejad welcomes Nouri al-Maliki.

Colossal Taxpayer Waste in Iraq (Aug. 29, 2010)


As he left Zimbabwe in 2007 after three years as ambassador, Christopher W. Dell wrote a sardonic account of Robert Mugabe, that country’s aging and erratic leader. The cable called Mr. Mugabe “a brilliant tactician” but mocked “his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics).”


Sidebar: Related report on this site

Robert Mugabe

The Personality Profile of Robert Mugabe (Dec. 19, 2008)


The possibility that a large number of diplomatic cables might become public has been discussed in government and media circles since May. That was when, in an online chat, an Army intelligence analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, described having downloaded from a military computer system many classified documents, including “260,000 State Department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world.” In an online discussion with Adrian Lamo, a computer hacker, Private Manning said he had delivered the cables and other documents to WikiLeaks.

Mr. Lamo reported Private Manning’s disclosures to federal authorities, and Private Manning was arrested. He has been charged with illegally leaking classified information and faces a possible court-martial and, if convicted, a lengthy prison term.

In July and October, The Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel published articles based on documents about Afghanistan and Iraq. …


Sidebar: Related report on this site

Taliban militants drive through Musa Qala, a southern Afghan town, in a Ford pickup truck, the very kind of vehicle the United States had provided the Afghan army and police force. (Photo credit: Reuters via The New York Times)

WikiLeaks: Grim View of War (July 26, 2010)


Related reports

Read more at The New York Times

Comprehensive coverage by The Guardian

English-language coverage by Der Spiegel


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — November 28, 2009

Afghanistan Tougher Than Iraq

A U.S. Marine runs to safety moments after an IED blast in Garmsir district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, July 13, 2009. (Photo: Manpreet Romana / AFP -- Getty Images file)
A U.S. Marine runs to safety moments after an IED blast in Garmsir district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, July 13, 2009. (Photo credit: Manpreet Romana / AFP — Getty Images file)

One year ago today, I reported that many soldiers and policy makers believe the conflict in Afghanistan may be harder and more intractable than the war in Iraq.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — November 28, 2008

Zawahiri Blames Wars for Economic Crisis

“Bin Laden’s Brain” — Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri

Two years ago today, on Nov. 28, 2008, I reported that al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had said in an Internet video that the U.S. financial crisis was caused by Washington’s military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and that taxpayers were paying the price; and that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has emerged as a nationalist strongman after reaching a status-of-forces agreement with the Bush administration requiring U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

2 Responses to “WikiLeaks: U.S. Security Threats”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Breathtaking Afghan Corruption Says:

    […] WikiLeaks: U.S. Security Threats (Nov. 28, 2010) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » US Plan to Snatch Pakistan Nukes Says:

    […] WikiLeaks: U.S. Security Threats (Nov. 28, 2010) […]

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