Iran shipped UAVs to Venezuela (via Turkey) in 2009.
The collapse of the Venezuelan opposition.
Cuban doctors working in Venezuela complained to embassy officials of being "politically manipulated" and underpaid.
Did WikiLeaks out a Malaysian politician as gay?
Another day, another WikiLeaks e-book, this one by a British journalist who seems to have been a bit too into Julian Assange.
Russian intelligence services used dirty tricks to intimidate American democracy-promotion NGO workers.
U.S. embassy officials in Damascus asked the Bush and Obama administrations to sanction Syria, to no avail.
Vaughan Smith (above right, with Assange in January), who's hosting Assange under the terms of his release, says the WikiLeaks founder "is like a moody teenager … hunted by pushy groupies."
THE BIG PICTURE
What WikiLeaks has in common with Rupert Murdoch.
A graphic novel tells the story of WikiLeaks (in Italian).
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Members of Haiti's elite complained to the U.S. Embassy in 2005 about eroding security in the country.
A Taliban representative told U.S. officials in 1996 that the Taliban had shut down "Arab" training camps in Afghanistan, and had no idea where Osama bin Laden was. A U.S. embassy official met with a Taliban representative the following year to discuss the Afghan drug trade and the group's sheltering of bin Laden.
A 1999 State Department meeting with future Afghan President Hamid Karzai, identified here as the "son of an important Afghan tribal leader."
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad sizing up the Taliban's Mullah Omar, circa 1997.
Beijing was unhappy about North Korean nuclear tests in 2006, but powerless to stop them.
The Japanese island of Okinawa, host to a longstanding U.S. military presence, is tilting toward China and away from the United States.
Bahrain's recent crackdown on its Shiite minority came out of Saudi Arabia's playbook.
Julian Assange is reportedly backing off of plans to publish his memoirs.
A medic in Britain's Royal Navy has been sentenced to seven months' detention for refusing to train on account of WikiLeaks-inspired moral objections.
An excellent telling of the sad saga of Pfc. Bradley Manning from New York. (The online friend whose chats with Manning provide much of the new information in the piece has also made their correspondence available for download.)
SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Salvadorans are not into the idea of other people investigating Salvadorans.
U.S. officials in 2006 were concerned about the security of Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure.
The granddaddy of WikiLeaks is officially released at last.
THE BIG PICTURE
Trying to make sense of the LulzSec hackers' motives.
How WikiLeaks begat the Sarah Palin email frenzy.
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images, Tom Pennington/Getty Images, Flickr user Andy Miah
The United States' quasi-embassy in Havana was in the dark about the U.S. Agency for International Development's activities in Cuba.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice tried to block a U.N. investigation into possible Israeli war crimes during the 2008-2009 Gaza invasion.
The United States secretly backed Syrian opposition groups.
Singing pro-Manning protesters interrupt Obama at a fundraiser in San Francisco.
WikiLeaks may have scared diplomats, but it hasn't stopped them from talking smack about each other.
THE BIG PICTURE
The backstory of P.J. Crowley's dissent over Manning, well-told by Politico.
Has the Obama administration actually started listening to its critics on Manning's treatment?
WikiLeaks-based reporting didn't take home any Pulitzers this week, but newspapers didn't even bother to submit it.
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. diplomats' relationship with Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's government wasn't always so cold.
Is Chinese demand for ivory killing Kenyan elephants?
An Israeli settlement leader tells U.S. officials he's willing to move, for a price.
Bahrain's king is proud of intelligence ties to Israel, wants his government to drop references to the "Zionist enemy."
Israel and Egypt locked horns over smuggling on the Gaza strip.
Israel suspects that Turkey is helping Iran skirt international sanctions.
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about the United States' relationship with embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Ecuador kicks out U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges (above) over a WikiLeaks cable.
The Pentagon won't let anyone -- including U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and investigators from the United Nations and Amnesty International -- meet with Pfc. Bradley Manning in private. The British government is also raising concerns over Manning's treatment.
Julian Assange has another court date.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee proposes new penalties for leakers.
The feds won't leave friend of WikiLeaks Jacob Applebaum alone.
Karl Rove is copping WikiLeaks' style.
Qaddafi's Ukrainian nurse tells all.
Pentagon contractor (and Anonymous nemesis) HBGary's ambitious scheme to catch the next WikiLeaker.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Has Hugo Chávez been selling missiles to Muammar al-Qaddafi?
The Kenyan government wanted to arrest a prominent opposition leader in 2007.
The Colombian military maintains a 100-man counter-guerrilla force inside Venezuela.
Colombia has been using U.S. drones to fight the FARC for five years.
A staffer in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress Party shows U.S. embassy aides chests full of cash being used to buy votes.
India faces a "growing Naxalite menace."
U.S. diplomats viewed Mohamed ElBaradei as "part of the problem" in the Middle East in 2009.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a "hunger for absolute power and for the material benefits of power".
U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual steps down over WikiLeaks-fueled flap with Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Damning corruption allegations in the WikiLeaks cables have India's Manmohan Singh on the ropes.
Protesters demonstrating over Pfc. Bradley Manning's treatment are arrested at Quantico.
An art group in Russia's Ural region is building a monument to Julian Assange.
Is Michael Bay basing the villains in the next Transformers movie on Julian Assange?
THE BIG PICTURE
FP tallies the biggest losers so far in the Cablegate saga.
More on the role of WikiLeaks in the Arab revolutions.
Bradley Manning's long road to WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange, houseguest: a reenactment.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Sierra Leonean military officials blew $1.9 million in British aid money on big-screen TVs and hunting rifles.
U.S. officials helped in a corruption case against Tanzanian banking executives.
Kenyan officials told U.S. diplomats that an investigation into the country's 2007-2008 election violence would risk provoking civil war.
Nigerian politician Joseph Ibori wanted to create a "trust fund" with his stolen wealth.
The owner of Japan's currently imperiled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant falsified inspection records for the facility.
U.S. diplomats say British defense contractor BAE bribed a Saudi prince to secure a fighter jet deal.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley
is fired quits after
calling the Defense Department's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Pfc.
Bradley Manning "ridiculous
and counterproductive and stupid."
The Pentagon says its own security weaknesses enabled the leaking of the WikiLeaks documents.
Mexican President Filipe Calderón is "barely on speaking terms" with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico over WikiLeaks disclosures.
A federal judge rules that Twitter must hand over its records in WikiLeaks case.
Gawker goes inside Anonymous's war room.
Jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki praises WikiLeaks.
The top lawmaker on the U.S. House of Representatives' intelligence committee says WikiLeaks have been "devastating" to diplomacy.
THE BIG PICTURE
Julian Assange: WikiLeaks sparked the Arab revolt.
How the WikiLeaks documents helped reporters covering Japan's nuclear woes.
WikiLeaks suffers the most damaging leak of them all: pictures of Julian Assange dancing.
Qaddafi worried about a U.S. military presence in Africa.
Bernie Madoff once discussed investment opportunities with Qaddafi.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe OK'd "clandestine operations" against FARC rebels across the border in Venezuela.
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (and later Afghanistan) William Wood was not aware of the top Colombian military leader's dodgy résumé.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to take down Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.
China used U.S. debt obligations to pressure the United States on arms sales to Taiwan.
For the first time since World War II, Japan is building a full-blown foreign intelligence agency.
U.S. diplomats pushed Norway to buy American-made fighter jets.
Britain blocked an arms sale to Swaziland over fears the weapons could end up in Iran.
Bahrain's crown prince is not a big fan of the whole democracy thing.
A British judge rules in favor of Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden.
George W. Bush doesn't like the idea of sharing a stage with Assange.
Gaddafi's "voluptuous nurse" has had enough of Libya.
WikiLeaks cable revelations are factoring in Peru's 2011 elections.
PayPal freezes the account of a group raising defense funds for Pfc. Bradley Manning.
More on HBGary, the cybersecurity firm that tried to take down WikiLeaks' supporters.
WikiLeaks now has a gift shop.
Anonymous makes "The Colbert Report" (slightly NSFW)
THE BIG PICTURE
U.S. diplomats in 2008 called the Libyan city where protests erupted this week "a locus of extremist activity" not really under the control of Muammar Qaddafi's government.
What U.S. diplomats have to say about Xi Jinping, China's next leader.
NATO on Russia's military: Meh.
Inside the United States' cozy relationship with Bahrain.
Bahrain's king told U.S. officials that his country's opposition was trained by Hezbollah.
The U.S. government's WikiLeaks probe makes its courtroom debut in the United States.
The preposterously complex hacking and counter-hacking saga engulfing WikiLeaks' online allies.
Australia wants to make sure Julian Assange is treated justly in Sweden.
Anonymous is now going after Iran.
THE BIG PICTURE
Free speech advocate and celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz, now Julian Assange's lawyer, tells FP why WikiLeaks is "the Pentagon Papers case for the 21st Century."
WikiLeaks' Asia cables could be a whole lot worse.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
The near-total destruction of Baghdad's city zoo over the course of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was, in retrospect, a grim portent of the poor planning and disastrous mismanagement that would characterize the early years of the Iraq war. The zoo had been the largest in the Middle East before the invasion, with more than 650 animals; eight days after coalition troops arrived in the city, however, all but 35 were dead. "All the Americans would've had to do is drop off 50 men, with a few vets and a truckload of food, and they wouldn't have lost any of the animals," Lawrence Anthony, a South Africa conservationist who salvaged what was left of the zoo after the invasion, told me last year.
So it's heartening to read a February 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, signed by embassy staffer Greg D'Elia and released by WikiLeaks over the weekend, detailing the Baghdad zoo's resurgence as "reportedly … the most popular destination for family outings in Baghdad." As of late 2007, security in the city was still dicey enough that most of the zoo's visitors came from the immediately surrounding neighborhoods. But as the worst of the brutal sectarian violence of the preceding years ebbed, some 8,000 Baghdadis were visiting each weekend, and the zookeepers could boast of some one-of-a-kind acquisitions:
[T]he Baghdad Zoo staff took particular pleasure in reclaiming for the Iraqi public the exotic animals formerly possessed by Saddam Hussein and his family. Uday's pampered cheetah is now tame enough for visitors to pet. Two of Saddam's three lions gave birth last year to three cubs each; now the Zoo has nine lions on display. The Zoo also has in its possession Saddam Hussein's former stallion, Al Abor -- "the most famous horse in Iraq," according to Mousa. Saddam Hussein rode Al Abor in countless parades and public ceremonies.
The best part of the cable is its account of the zoo's "highlights and lowlights":
The Baghdad Zoo also featured some primitive practices, including the daily slaughter of two donkeys to feed the lions, and some modern flourishes, such as exotic fish with an image of the Iraqi flag lasered permanently into their scales. (NOTE: These fish sport the old Iraqi flag. Zoo staff could not predict whether they will employ laser surgery to amend these now-outlawed, swimming flags. END NOTE.)
Then there are the alcoholic bears:
To ease the trauma of the brown bears' move from Saddam Hussein's possession into the Zoo, staff reportedly plied them with copious amounts of Arak; visitors repeated rumors that the disheveled bears continue to imbibe this powerful drink.
The Libyan frogman who couldn't swim.
The FBI pursues a team of alleged Qatari would-be 9/11 conspirators in the United States.
The rift between Washington and Beijing is deeper than either government would like you to think.
The United States' secret space arms race with China.
A Croatian man tries to get back at his ex-girlfriend by telling U.S. embassy officials that she's hanging out with Osama bin Laden.
Making an oil and gas deal in Russia is really complicated.
Newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman is close to Mubarak and foreign intelligence agencies, but not Mubarak's son. And a lot of people seem to think Mubarak's new deputy prime minister is a bureaucratic dinosaur.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accuses Syria and Iran of arming Iraqi militants.
Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh wants his money.
U.S. diplomats doubt reforms are on the way in Jordan.
Did WikiLeaks hack into New York Times reporters' email accounts?
WikiLeaks' release process has become so complicated that even the papers involved don't know what's a scoop anymore.
Amnesty International wants Britain to pressure the U.S. government over the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning.
THE BIG PICTURE
George W. Bush administration Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith thinks Assange will be prosecuted in the United States.
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and Guardian Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger talk WikiLeaks.
Forty-two percent of Americans have no idea what WikiLeaks is.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in his fit of frantic cabinet shuffling, has elevated his long-standing intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to a new post as his first-ever vice president. Suleiman is a looming figure in Middle East spook circles with long-standing connections to U.S. intelligence operatives -- see Jeff Stein and Pat Lang for more on this -- and appears several times in the WikiLeaks U.S. State Department cables, mostly in the context of briefings with top U.S. military officials preoccupied with Iran's influence in the region.
More germane to Suleiman's new gig is a 2007 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, signed by U.S. Amb. Francis J. Ricciardone, gaming out possible secession scenarios should Mubarak step down from the presidency -- including the role of Suleiman, described here as Mubarak's "consigliere:"
MANY OF OUR CONTACTS BELIEVE THAT SOLIMAN, BECAUSE OF HIS MILITARY BACKGROUND, WOULD AT THE LEAST HAVE TO FIGURE IN ANY SUCCESSION SCENARIO FOR GAMAL [Mubarak, Hosni's son and likely successor], POSSIBLY AS A TRANSITIONAL FIGURE. SOLIMAN HIMSELF ADAMANTLY DENIES ANY PERSONAL AMBITIONS, BUT HIS INTEREST AND DEDICATION TO NATIONAL SERVICE IS OBVIOUS. HIS LOYALTY TO MUBARAK SEEMS ROCK-SOLID. AT AGE 71, HE COULD BE ATTRACTIVE TO THE RULING APPARATUS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE AS A RELIABLE FIGURE UNLIKELY TO HARBOR AMBITIONS FOR ANOTHER MULTI-DECADE PRESIDENCY. A KEY UNANSWERED QUESTION IS HOW HE WOULD RESPOND TO A GAMAL PRESIDENCY ONCE MUBARAK IS DEAD. AN ALLEGED PERSONAL FRIEND OF SOLIMAN TELLS US THAT SOLIMAN "DETESTS" THE IDEA OF GAMAL AS PRESIDENT, AND THAT HE ALSO WAS "DEEPLY PERSONALLY HURT" BY MUBARAK, WHO PROMISED TO NAME HIM VICE-PRESIDENT SEVERAL YEARS AGO, BUT THEN RENEGED.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak thought George W. Bush was "naive, controlled by subordinates, and completely unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq."
Inside the U.S. military's $1.3 billion-a-year relationship with Egypt.
When Hillary met Hosni.
The Egyptian military's Plan B in the event of a regime change.
The U.S. military hasn't turned up any evidence of collaboration between Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Manning's supervisors warned the U.S. Army not to deploy him to Iraq.
Der Spiegel's tick-tock on the lead-up to Cablegate. (Assange: "We have to survive this leak.")
When American newspapers aren't bashing Julian Assange, they're imitating him.
WikiLeaks: the next generation.
Assange wants more media partners.
THE BIG PICTURE
Reading WikiLeaks as literature.
Is Manning Capt. James Yee all over again?
Is Algeria next?
Why the Palestine Papers aren't the next WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has done more for Arab democracy than decades of U.S. diplomacy.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
While the community of Middle East leak-watchers is focused on Al Jazeera's release of 1,600 documents from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, WikiLeaks has released a number of U.S. diplomatic cables that call into question the long-term viability of Algerian strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Particularly in the wake of Tunisia's revolt -- and the U.S. Embassy's success at identifying the seeds of unrest there -- these cables deserve a close read.
The most engaging report is a 2008 cable on disaffected Algerian youth known as "the harraga," or literally "one who burns." Unlike Mohamed Bouazizi, who lit himself on fire in Tunisia two years later, these men aren't burning themselves -- they're burning their identification papers before setting out on makeshift boats in an attempt to reach the shores of Spain or Italy. It's an unbelievably dangerous journey: The embassy estimates that over 90 percent of the harraga die at sea, are detained indefinitely by North African authorities, or are returned to their host country. According to one article cited in the cable, up to 50,000 Algerians and Libyans attempted to reach European shores in search of economic opportunities in 2007.
From the Algerian regime's perspective, perhaps the most troubling aspect of this story is that the harraga hail -- like Bouazizi -- from the society's educated classes. One boat, the embassy reported "includ[ed] five university graduates and two doctors." The grandson of a former Algerian president also departed the country in this way and "has not been heard from since."
A 2007 cable signed by U.S. Amb. Robert Ford -- now the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Damascus -- lays out the consequences of this disaffection more explicitly. The Algerian regime, he writes, is "plagued by a lack of vision, unprecedented levels of corruption and rumblings of division within the military rank and file."
The most explosive comments in the cable are relayed to the embassy by Said Sadi, an opposition leader. Sadi described a conversation that he had with Gen. Toufik Mediene, Algeria's head of military intelligence, who "acknowledged that all was not well with the health of Bouteflika and Algeria writ large." When the conversation turned to Algeria's endemic corruption, Sadi reports that the general "motion[ed] silently to the portrait of Bouteflika that hung over their heads" to indicate where the problem lay.
Ford hedged his bets in late 2007, writing that the embassy does not expect an imminent revolt in Algeria. But in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolt -- and with Algerian protests and self-immolations mounting -- the moment may just be now.
U.S. officials worried about the return to Haiti of Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier back in 2006. (Duvalier returned to the country this week.)
Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom doesn't think Rigoberta Menchú exists.
BP's top Russia executive has his doubts about the survival of the company's partnership with Russian oil firm Rosneft.
Turkey allowed the United States to use one of its airbases for rendition flights.
Condoleezza Rice wanted U.S. diplomats in the Middle East to gather intelligence on Israeli communications technology and Palestinian leaders.
American diplomats were ambivalent about deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and alarmed by the growing opposition to him.
U.S. diplomats in Turkey fretted about a military backlash after the arrest of several officers in an alleged coup plot last year.
Julian Assange is planning to release details on 2,000 offshore bank accounts, which he says contain evidence of serious tax evasion and money laundering. Swiss authorities are now mulling filing related charges against his source, former Swiss Banker Rudolf Elmer, who was already found guilty on Wednesday of breaking other banking secrecy laws.
Alleged Assange source Pfc. Bradley Manning is placed on suicide watch; his lawyer says he's being mistreated at the Marine Corps jail.
The State Department has made a big deal about the havoc caused by WikiLeaks, but privately officials tell congressional staffers the leaks were "embarrassing but not damaging."
Assange still has a lot of supporters in his home country of Australia.
The Pentagon wants U.S. military personnel to get rid of any WikiLeaks files they might have on their computers.
Russian WikiLeaks knockoff RuLeaks posts pictures of Vladimir Putin's Black Sea estate.
French lawyers are using WikiLeaks cables to argue for the acquittal of five Guantánamo detainees.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says that Assange's extradition is a judicial matter, and that his government won't be involved in the decision.
An investigative firm alleges WikiLeaks skims documents off of file-sharing networks.
Zimbabwe's attorney general is considering pursuing treason charges against more government officials based on WikiLeaks cables.
WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Applebaum is detained at an airport again.
A German CEO is out of a job after calling Europe's multi-billion-dollar Galileo satellite system (on which his company was working) a "stupid idea" in a WikiLeaked cable. (If you're keeping track, this is officially the first time WikiLeaks has caused trouble in space.)
THE BIG PICTURE
WikiLeaks was supposed to have extensive safeguards for its whistleblowers -- so why are so many of them ending up in jail?
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Tunisian uprising wasn't a WikiLeaks revolution, but it does help us understand how technology can and can't help spread democracy.
At last, someone thought to ask Miss America what she thinks about WikiLeaks.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
In case you missed it, Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi gave a bizarre speech this weekend lamenting the downfall of his eastern neighbor, Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The best part was when he started talking about WikiLeaks, which he calls "Kleenex":
Even you, my Tunisian brothers. You may be reading this Kleenex and empty talk on the Internet. This Internet, which any demented person, any drunk can get drunk and write in, do you believe it? The Internet is like a vacuum cleaner, it can suck anything. Any useless person; any liar; any drunkard; anyone under the influence; anyone high on drugs; can talk on the Internet, and you read what he writes and you believe it. This is talk which is for free. Shall we become the victims of “Facebook” and “Kleenex”* and “YouTube”! Shall we become victims to tools they created so that they can laugh at our moods?
Thanks to Amira Al Husseini for the translation. You can watch part of the speech here, though unfortunately it's not the same section. Toward the end here, he cites a World Economic Forum ("Day-vos," he says) report ranking Tunisia's economy among the most competitive in Africa:
On July 25, 1990, Saddam Hussein summoned April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, to discuss Iraq's brewing dispute with Kuwait. Their discussion would eventually cost Glaspie her promising career as a diplomat.
One week after the meeting, Saddam's troops would storm into Kuwait, beginning the chain of events that eventually led to the Gulf War. Now, with WikiLeaks' release of Glaspie's cable describing her meeting with Saddam, we have her firsthand perspective on one of the seminal events that preceded the conflict.
The cable is more interesting for what is not discussed than what is. Glaspie doesn't show any awareness that war is just around the corner; she mainly offers diplomatic pablum that the United States is interested in "friendship" with Iraq. Due to her failure to warn Saddam that the United States would forcefully retaliate in the event of an invasion of Kuwait, the Washington Post described her as "the face of American incompetence in Iraq." Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer piled on in a 2003 article for Foreign Policy, arguing that Glaspie's remarks unwittingly gave Iraq a green light to invade Kuwait.
That's an unfair judgment. Glaspie was unable to employ harsher language because George H.W. Bush's administration hadn't yet reached a decision on how the United States would respond to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. "Practically nobody in the U.S. government believed that Saddam was going to opt for military action," Wayne White, who served in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) at the time of the Gulf War, told me.
Saddam, after all, had sent two of his highest-ranking deputies to Saudi Arabia to hold negotiations with the Kuwaitis to resolve the crisis. And during the meeting with Glaspie, he received a telephone call from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak where he pledged that "nothing will happen" until after the discussions. Surely the Iraqi dictator wasn't preparing to invade a U.S. ally, seize a significant share of world oil supplies, and sabotage the diplomatic efforts of the Arab world's two most powerful countries?
In fact, he was. But the United States had yet to appreciate that fact, leaving Glaspie with instructions only to issue a tepid plea to find a negotiated solution to the dispute. "There was no way that April could have done anything more than she did without authority going all the way up to the president of the United States," said White. "Because we don't make idle threats. If you're going to threaten, you have to really mean it."
Glaspie, who became the first female U.S. ambassador posted to a Middle Eastern country when she was sent to Iraq, became something of a pariah within the State Department after this episode. She served at the U.S. mission to the United Nations after leaving Iraq, and then headed the U.S. consulate in Cape Town, South Africa, before retiring in 2002. For someone who had previously spent her entire career focused on U.S. policy in the Middle East, these were something less than dream assignments.
The WikiLeaks cables do show that Glaspie was not the sharpest observer of Saddam's regime, and at points made the mistake of trying to handle the Iraqi president with kid gloves. In one cringe-inducing line, she commiserates with Saddam over his unhappiness with how the Diane Sawyer show edited an interview with him, saying that it was "cheap and unfair." Der Spiegel, which apparently has unreleased cables from the period written by Glaspie, reported that the U.S. diplomat also described to the State Department an "important" initiative by Saddam to draft a new Iraqi constitution.
Perhaps that credulousness is the reason why Glaspie's rise in the State Department stalled. But on the charge that she could have deterred Saddam from invading Kuwait by using sterner language during that much-debated meeting, she is certainly innocent.
MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images
Another day, another cable about alleged central-African multi-million-dollar embezzlement -- this time in Gabon.
The Obama administration dispatches a Florida senator to urge Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon not to pursue a torture case against Bush administration officials.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency quietly evolves into an international intelligence agency.
How a Brazilian who once kidnapped a U.S. ambassador managed to get into the United States.
McDonald's tries to muck up a free trade agreement in El Salvador.
The Jamaican government warned U.S. officials that extraditing a local drug lord would lead to trouble.
Britain trains a "government death squad" in Bangladesh.
Did Britain try to cheat Mauritius out of an island chain?
Inside Russia's awful prisons.
Shell thinks that Ireland could become a booming offshore gas supplier -- or not.
More U.S. complaints about Egypt's lackluster military.
Behind the scenes of an assassination in Dubai.
Julian Assange claims (dubiously) to have the names of CIA moles in Arab governments.
The FBI pays back "Operation Payback" over PayPal attack.
77 percent of Americans disapprove of WikiLeaks' cable release.
Did WikiLeaks dash Zimbabwe's hopes for democracy?
Hackers claim to have brought down Zimbabwean government websites in retaliation for a WikiLeaks-related lawsuit against a Harare newspaper.
THE BIG PICTURE
Daniel Ellsberg lawyer Floyd Abrams says Assange is no Daniel Ellsberg.
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
On Thursday, Julian Assange told reporters that WikiLeaks would be releasing State Department cables concerning the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January, and he has made good on the promise with a couple of short dispatches from the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi. They don't offer any more insight into the still-unsolved killing, but they do paint a picture of the diplomatic conundrum the incident posed for the United Emirates and the United States.
Mabhouh, a Hamas military commander who had orchestrated the
kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers and was suspected of smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip, died in his room at the Al
Bustan Rotana hotel in Dubai on Jan. 19, after being injected with the muscle
relaxant succinylcholine and then suffocated. Although Israel
has denied it won't confirm or deny it, the
list of people who don't believe that Mossad agents did the job is vanishingly
short. The hit squad had deftly
plotted and executed the assassination, using encrypted cell phones and passports
from half a dozen countries, and quickly scattered themselves from Hong Kong to
Paris once their work was done. Their one mistake, however, was a big one:
failing to account for the hotel's CCTV cameras, which caught
their faces on tape.
The story was first reported 10 days later by Reuters, and as it happened, U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson was at a social event with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed when it broke, according to one of the two embassy cables, signed by Olson. An unnamed UAE media advisor, Olson reports in the Jan. 31 cable, "after making a few calls reported back that the UAE's public posture was being discussed between Dubai Ruler Mohammed bin Rashid and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The two options discussed were to say nothing at all, or to reveal more or less the full extent of the UAE's investigations."
The UAE was no friend of Hamas -- the emirate's discontent with Hamas patron Iran is a recurring theme in the WikiLeaks corpus -- but its government was, of course, not exactly eager to be seen as enabling an Israeli incursion on the sovereignty of an Arab state, either. The cable describes the UAE officials' reasoning, and decision:
Saying nothing would have been perceived as protecting the Israelis and in the end, the UAE chose to tell all. The statement was carefully drafted not to point any fingers, but the reference in the document (see below) to a gang with western passports will be read locally as referring to the Mossad.
American officials had their own decision to make about where their loyalties were -- one documented in the second cable, signed by Olson deputy Doug Greene, several weeks later. Greene reports that UAE officials requested the embassy's help in acquiring account data for credit cards, issued by a bank in Iowa, that investigators had linked to suspects in the assassination. The request was apparently turned down, and as Haaretz reports, the State Department denied at the time that any requests had been made. "By not accepting the request," Haaretz's Yossi Melman writes, "the Obama administration harmed the Dubai investigation efforts and assisted Israel instead." The U.S. government did eventually assist in the investigation, however, identifying American companies that may have been used to finance the operation.
David Silverman/Getty Images
New Zealand has, less than shockingly, not been a major presence in the WikiLeaks saga so far. So congratulations are order for the U.S. embassy in Wellington, which made a strong showing in the Guardian yesterday with a tale of international espionage that somehow involves Mossad, Hamas, cerebral palsy, and mutton.
In 2004, New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel after two Mossad agents were found to have stolen the identity of a quadriplegic New Zealander in order to obtain a passport for a third Israeli spy.* "It is a sorry indictment of Israel that it has again taken such actions against a country with which it has friendly relations," New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said at the time. Visas were restricted, embassies were closed, and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who was planning to visit the country, was disinvited. Then Hamas got involved. The organization put out a press release applauding New Zealand's actions, saying it "highly appreciated the daring position" Clark had taken against the "Zionist security apparatuses."
Clark's government made a show of rejecting Hamas's overtures, but American embassy officials in Wellington were apparently unconvinced. A July 19, 2004 cable about the incident, signed by political and economic counselor Timothy Zuniga-Brown, floats the theory that New Zealand may have had ulterior motives in making a big deal about the Mossad affair:
Its overly strong reaction to Israel over this issue suggests the [government of New Zealand] sees this flap as an opportunity to bolster its credibility with the Arab community, and by doing so, perhaps, help NZ lamb and other products gain greater access to a larger and more lucrative market.
Would the Kiwis really fan the flames of an international incident to ingratiate their way into Arab stomachs? It's certainly true that the economy of New Zealand -- which famously has 9 sheep for every human -- is unusually lamb-dependent: The country's lamb-heavy international meat sales accounted for $5.19 billion last year, or 13 percent of all exports. And while Europe and the United States are still the world's biggest lamb importers, the Middle East is the most promising growth market -- neighboring Australia's lamb exports to the region grew 25 percent from 1990 to 2008. In any case, the New Zealand media have been strangely silent on the allegations so far.
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By Ian Bremmer
Some of the information from those WikiLeaked U.S. diplomatic cables is interesting, or at least entertaining. But will the revelations actually have an impact on the conduct of international politics? Looking around the world, I've seen one policy so far that looks to be changed as a consequence of WikiLeaks.
On Dec. 6, Uruguay and Argentina joined Brazil in announcing they would formally recognize a Palestinian state, following the failure of Obama administration efforts to jumpstart talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Brazil's decision is interesting only in that it provides more evidence that major emerging market countries are carving out their own approaches to the world's big diplomatic conflicts, including in the Middle East, which is not a place where Latin American countries have many vital interests at stake. Remember when Brazil joined Turkey in direct engagement with Iran on its nuclear program? Or when outgoing President Lula invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil? That was a pretty clear statement that Brazil would not simply follow Washington's lead on every issue.
Argentina is more of an eyebrow raiser. After all, for reasons historical and cultural, Argentina is traditionally more sympathetic toward Israel than any of its Latin American neighbors. So why this shot across Israel's bow? Or was it the Obama administration's bow?
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner can't have been pleased to read that one of the cables exposed by WikiLeaks revealed that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had questioned her "mental state" and how she was "managing her nerves and anxiety." Making matters worse, the cables were written a year ago, but they went public one month after Kirchner lost her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner.
The leaks also revealed that a U.S. embassy official in Buenos Aires found her government to be "to be extremely thin-skinned and intolerant of perceived criticism." Maybe he had it right. Maybe the leaks explain, at least in part, why Argentina has decided to recognize a Palestinian state.
Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and author of The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir allegedly has $9 billion in oil money stashed in Britain.
American diplomats at the United Nations don't like to talk much about human rights anymore.
Joking about Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, or even above Venezuela, is ill-advised.
How Brazil got pharmaceutical companies to hand over cheap HIV/AIDS drugs.
WikiLeaks is banned there.
The Red Cross reported extensive torture of Kashmiris at Indian detention centers in Kashmir to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi in 2005.
Singapore's government owes an apology to basically every major country in Asia.
The Dalai Lama says fighting climate change is more important for Tibet than political independence.
The heir to the Gandhi family political dynasty thinks Hindu extremists are a bigger threat to India than Muslim ones.
Turkmen strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov doesn't like people who are smarter than him.
Eric Clapton's weirdly persistent influence on North Korean politics.
Silvio Berlusconi for the win?
The German government is still not digging L. Ron Hubbard.
The Stockholm embassy discusses Sweden's WikiLeaks-enabling Pirate Party in a particularly meta cable.
The Azeri first lady's plastic surgery creates confusion among U.S. diplomats in Baku.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is "bizarre" and "disturbed."
Do Arab leaders actually care about the Palestinians?
Hosni Mubarak thinks his son is a perfectionist.
Is the Egyptian military in "intellectual and social decline"?
The Arab League doesn't like Steven Spielberg.
Julian Assange is released on bail after a media-circus-attracting hearing, but not before Michael Moore manages to get involved. Now that he's out of jail, Assange is pretty chatty -- as is Vaughan Smith, the journalist and WikiLeaks supporter who's hosting him until his next court date.
Things are not going nearly so well for alleged Assange document source Bradley Manning.
Someone posts a manifesto on behalf of Anonymous, the ad-hoc group of hackers that has cyber-attacked an array of targets in solidarity with WikiLeaks over the past two weeks. The manifesto quotes KISS bassist Gene Simmons. A Greek web designer is arrested for it.
A lot of people think Assange should have been Time's 2010 person of the year. Richard Stengel, the magazine's managing editor, isn't one of them.
Would Henry David Thoreau join Anonymous?
Congress considers WikiLeaks.
Mark Prendergast, ombudsman for the U.S. military's official Stars and Stripes newspaper, argues that military personnel should be allowed to read the cables.
If WikiLeaks doesn't get things rolling a little faster, we'll be writing this blog for another 7.6 years.
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In March 2010, then-CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus set off a storm of protest among neoconservatives when, in his statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, he named "insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace" as an obstacle to U.S. goals in the region.
"The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [area of responsibility]," read the statement. "Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world." At the same time, Petraeus concluded, "Al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas."
While this represented only one of a number of "cross cutting challenges to security and stability" detailed in his statement, Petraeus' analysis was too much for the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman, who quickly issued a scolding: "Gen. Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict," said Foxman. "This linkage is dangerous and counterproductive."
That such a carefully calibrated statement of the obvious should draw condemnation from the ADL -- as if the very suggestion that Israel's conflicts could create difficulties for its American patron were itself a form of defamation -- indicates how uncomfortable the notion of "linkage" makes many Israel hawks.
For Egypt watchers, thrilled as they no doubt were to read Hosni Mubarak's private ruminations on Iran or his advisors' insistence that Egyptian diplomacy is still a force for peace in the Middle East, we're just now getting to the good stuff.
WikiLeaks has released a fresh batch of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and these make for much more interesting reading.
Many of them deal with the very sensitive question of whether Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, will succeed his father (one particularly frank cable calls this issue "the elephant in the room of Egyptian politics"), and there are some revealing nuggets on that score.
In one cable, Hosni regales Frank Ricciardone, then the U.S. ambassador, and a visiting congressman with some rare fatherly insights on Gamal -- whom he describes as a perfectionist:
"As a schoolboy, if I gave him a notebook with one line that was not straight, he would throw a fit and demand a new one," Mubarak laughed. Furthermore, Gamal is "idealistic" and "punctual." Mubarak added, "If he (Gamal) says, 'meet me for lunch at 2:00,' he means 2:00. Set your watch by it."
Presidential material! In the same cable, Hosni says he exercises each afternoon when he's in Cairo, but when he retreats to his beach house in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the Sinai coast, "I just relax -- no exercise." He also misremembers Gamal's age at one point. Here's the best bit, tagged as sensitive/no foreign:
Throughout the meeting, Mubarak was expansive and in fine humor. He rose easily from his seat several times to point out activity on the golf course and to be photographed with his visitors. He engaged the visitors extensively on the topic of food, stressing that his favorite fare is Egyptian popular breakfast dishes, such as tamiya (felafel) and foul (beans). He ordered up a huge tray of freshly made tamiya sandwiches for lunch, and lustily consumed several.
(I had always heard that Hosni was big on shrimp while he was in Sharm, but I guess he's got to keep it real.)
Other Cairo cables are more analytical, delving into various succession scenarios, comparing Mubarak to his predecessor Anwar Sadat, and evaluating the Egyptian military, which unnamed Egyptian interlocutors portray as "in intellectual and social decline," albeit still deeply enmeshed in the economy.
But the question of what happens when "pharaoh" dies hangs over all.
The U.S. embassy in Egypt wrote an interesting profile of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in May 2009 prior to his visit to Washington, which occurred that August. The cable, which was signed by Ambassador Margaret Scobey, noted that Mubarak is "in reasonably good health," and that his most notable ailment was "a hearing deficit in his left ear." That judgment is notable because it came during one of the periodic bouts of media speculation regarding Mubarak's supposed frailty, sparked at the time by the unexpected death of his grandson.
Overall, the cable paints a portrait of the Egyptian president as a hyper-cautious military man who prizes stability over progress. Mubarak "lamented" the U.S. invasion of Iraq, because Saddam "at least he held the country together and countered Iran." Now, his main goal appears to be countering rising Iranian influence in Iraq and throughout the region:
[T]he Egyptians recently told Special Envoy Ross they expect our outreach to Iran to fail, and that 'we should prepare for confrontation through isolation.' Mubarak and his advisors are now convinced that Tehran is working to weaken Egypt through creation of Hizballah cells, support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and destabilization of Gaza. Egypt has warned that it will retaliate if these actions continue.
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After 35 years on the job, it's a fair bet that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal has some tricks up his sleeve. However, the WikiLeaked revelation that Prince Saud supported the establishment of an "Arab force" in Lebanon to combat Hezbollah has left many in Beirut and Washington wondering exactly what the world's longest-serving foreign minister had in mind. Here's the prince's recommendation, as relayed by Ambassador David Satterfield:
What was needed was an ‘Arab force' drawn from Arab ‘periphery' states to deploy to Beirut under the "cover of the UN" and with a significant presence drawn from UNIFIL in south Lebanon ‘which is sitting doing nothing.' The US and NATO would be asked to provide equipment for such a force as well as logistics, movement support, and ‘naval and air cover.'
The concept of an "Arab force" has been tried before, during one of the first episodes in Prince Saud's long tenure. The 1976 Arab League summit in Riyadh, meant to resolve the nascent Lebanese civil war, resulted in the establishment of something called the "Arab Deterrent Force." Saudi Arabia and other Arab states provided troops to the new peacekeeping effort, but the bulk of the soldiers were contributed by Syria. Troops from the other Arab countries soon lost interest and abandoned the peacekeeping force -- but Syria remained, using the endeavor to legitimize its occupation of Lebanon.
The outcome of the 1976 force hints at the problem with reviving the idea of an "Arab force" today. Syria was only able to establish its preeminence in Lebanon after another 14 years of fighting and thousands of casualties. Today, none of the Arab states that would contribute troops to limit Hezbollah's power -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan -- are conceivably in a position to make a similar sacrifice. Hezbollah fought the vastly superior Israel Defense Forces to a standstill for more than a month in 2006; the militant group would be an ever harder nut to crack for Washington's Arab allies.
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Via Arabist.net, here's an interesting cable, dated January 2008, from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Titled "BLUEBLOOD SHIA CLERIC COMMENTS ON "BACKWARD" SADRISTS AND SISTANI'S FEARS AND FRUSTRATIONS," the cable describes a meeting with Emad Klanter, a member of a prominent clerical family in Najaf (my emphasis):
Son of a respected Najafi Ayatollah, nephew to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, related by marriage to Muqtada al-Sadr, and bearing a faint resemblance to the actor Robert De Niro, Klanter is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad but was not wearing the traditional Shia Sayyid's garb of black turban and cloak during our meeting at the IZ villa of Saad Jabr, a Saddam-era exile opposition financier and son of Iraq's first Shia Prime Minister.
It goes on to find Klanter, who calls the Sadrists "backward, almost like they are from a cave," fretting about will happen when U.S. troops leave. " Swinging his arms into an abbreviated 'Gator Chomp' type of gesture," the cable's author relays, "he said that if the U.S, leaves 'Iran will swallow us whole.'"
Or maybe Saudi Arabi will. Another interesting cable dated September 2009 and signed by former U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill paraphrases one interlocutor saying that "Saudi influence in Iraq was significant, perhaps more significant than Iran’s at the moment, given the financial and media assets at its disposal, and given Iran’s recent internal distractions."
The U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan sure knows how to write a headline. Here's a cable from the Baku mission released by WikiLeaks over the weekend, beginning with the subject line "IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION:"
xxxxxxxxxxxx a licensed martial arts coach and trainer xxxxxxxxxxxx, told Baku Iran watcher that private martial arts clubs and their managers are under intense pressure to cooperate with Iranian intelligence and Revolutionary Guard organizations, both in training members and in working as "enforcers" in repression of protests and politically motivated killings.
It goes on:
xxxxxxxxxxxx said he personally knew one such martial arts master whom he said was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months in xxxxxxxxxxxx said that the victims included intellectuals and young "pro-democracy activists," adding that his assassin acquaintance was ultimately "suicided" by the authorities (i.e., killed in what was subsequently labeled a suicide).
I hesitate to pass judgment on this one way or the other, since I don't know anything beyond what's in the cable. (This video dug up from YouTube by Mother Jones's Daniel Schulman suggests there are at least some ninjas in Iran, though what their politics are is unclear.) It's probably worth noting, though, that ninjas have not been a particularly effective tool of statecraft since the 18th century. But hey, who knows?
WikiLeaks hasn't posted the cables yet, but the New York Times's Scott Shane has a piece out drawing from a forthcoming batch of Yemen dispatches, focusing on the United States' relationship with the wily Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president of three decades.
Nothing in it is terribly surprising if you've read much about Saleh, whose attempts to capitalize on the American government's sudden interest in his country following last year's foiled Christmas Day bomb plot, which was hatched in Yemen, are notorious enough to have inspired a Saturday Night Live skit. Still, some of the best character studies in the cables thus far have been of the United States' inconvenient allies in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union -- rulers like Saleh, Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev, and Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev -- so the piece is definitely worth a read.
The WikiLeaks cables do add some interesting details to the story of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, who has emerged since last year as an important player in counterterrorism efforts in Yemen. After al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula botched an assassination attempt on Nayef in August 2009, the Saudis, who share a sprawling border with Yemen, stepped up their cooperation with American intelligence agencies, and were instrumental in foiling AQAP's attempt to blow up two cargo planes over the United States last month. A May 2009 cable released earlier this week captures Nayef's growing sense of alarm even before the assassination attempt, in an account of a meeting between the prince and U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
Nayef tells Holbrooke, "We have a problem called Yemen." He says that Saleh's "vision of Yemen has shrunk to Sana'a," the capital city in the north, and the Yemeni president has lost what connections he had once had with the tribes that form the de facto government of Yemen's once independent and now tenuously controlled south. The Saudis, Nayef claims, have better relations with the southern tribes, and have taken matters into their own hands, financing development projects in the tribal regions that host AQAP in an effort to win Yemeni hearts and minds. I wonder how that's working out...
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