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
It's been a while since WikiLeaked checked in on Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's newly embattled president and a reliably interesting character in the WikiLeaks oeuvre. Most of what we've seen from Saleh in the leaked U.S. State Department cables has followed a pattern in which U.S. diplomats try to coax more counterterrorism cooperation out of the veteran strongman, while Saleh -- whose government received $155 million in military aid from the United States in 2010, twice the previous year's amount -- tries to finagle more cash and materiel out of the Americans. A newly released December 2004 State Department cable recounting a meeting between Saleh and U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski (pictured above with Saleh in a 2007 photo) is no exception.
The meeting takes place a little more than a month after U.S. President George W. Bush's reelection; Saleh badly wants to meet with Bush in Washington to congratulate him personally, he tells Krajeski, and also talk about "important new developments in the region 'that can only be discussed face to face,'" according to the cable. Krajeski hems and haws a bit about this, at which point, the cable notes, "True to form, Saleh launched into a list of what he believes the U.S. owes him. 'Where is the money for the Army, and what about my spare (F-5) parts?' Saleh demanded." (The cable notes, a little acidly, that there have been reported problems with getting the Yemeni Ministry of Defense "to follow through with the necessary paperwork on parts and equipment in order to spend the 17 million USD in Yemen's [foreign military financing] account.")
Pointing out that any meetings with senior U.S. officials would quickly turn to the subject of Yemen's huge grey market in SA/LW [small arms/light weapons], Ambassador told Saleh that Yemen needs to gain control over the huge flow of these weapons in and through the country. Washington is very concerned about this issue and ready to help the ROYG tackle it, added Ambassador. "I will do it!" Saleh exclaimed, insisting that he was insisting that he was already "cracking down" on the SA/LWs market.
The conversation soon turns, inevitably, to counterterrorism, in which Saleh has been a longstanding if not unproblematic partner to the United States. Pressed on the subject of Hadi Dulqum, an arms dealer with alleged links to Al Qaeda, the cable reports that "Saleh stuck to his line that Hadi Dulqum is just a 'simple arms dealer:'"
The Saudis want Dulqum, said the President, "they are crazy for him. What do you expect?" he asked, "if we arrest every arms dealer in the country, we will have hundreds of them in prison." The USG [U.S. government] agrees with the Saudis, said Ambassador, adding that Dulqum's connections with AQ are too extensive for him to be simply another Yemeni arms dealer.
Months later, Saleh does manage to swing a White House invite, prompting a June 2005 cable from the Sanaa embassy titled PRIORITIES FOR WASHINGTON VISIT: SALEH NEEDS TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. The cable characterizes relations with Saleh's government as "frustrating and difficult," noting that "Saleh has indicated to top advisors in the past that he believes he can pull the wool over the eyes of the [U.S. government.]" On the political front, "Saleh touts Yemen as a leader in regional reform and has committed to democratization," the cable says. "Domestically, however, he has run-out of reforms he can implement at no political cost to himself."
The cable proposes "a public show of support via a greater role in public fora such as the G-8" as a possible inducement to greater democratization, but it seems that half a decade later, the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt may have done the job more effectively.
KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images
As a general rule, I will click on any WikiLeaks cable titled "Underground Party Scene in Jeddah." And this account of a Halloween party at a prince's residence in the coastal Saudi city does not disappoint. Here's what one diplomat had to say about what went on beyond the "abaya coat-check":
Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party's well-stocked bar, well-patronized by Halloween revellers. The hired Filipino bartenders served a cocktail punch using "sadiqi," a locally-made "moonshine." While top-shelf liquor bottles were on display throughout the bar area, the original contents were reportedly already consumed and replaced by sadiqi … It was also learned through word-of-mouth that a number of the guests were in fact "working girls," not uncommon for such parties. Additionally, though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles and has been seen on other occasions.
The revelers told the diplomat that they hold such events at the homes of Saudi princes -- an effective method for keeping the religious police at bay.
Omar Salem/AFP/Getty Images
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."
WikiLeaks provides few revelations but many resonant reminders. The reminders put into language stark enough to reawaken the senses information that we long ago knew but had repressed. For example, take today's multiple reminders that so-called "friendly" governments in the Persian Gulf remain cash machines for the worst people on earth, terrorist groups dedicated to the slaughter of innocents.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," declared a document that went out a year ago under Hillary Clinton's signature, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."
Other cables describe how the group responsible for the Mumbai bombings, Lashkar-e-Taiba, raise cash through Saudi front businesses, and how the Taliban and their allies work through networks in the United Arab Emirates. They report fitful progress in reducing these cash flows, the use of religious pilgrimages as cover for illicit cash transfers from the Gulf to militants and the quiet if pointed methods the United States uses to press our so-called friends for assistance.
Here we are coming up on a decade since 9/11, two years since Mumbai, bogged down in horrifyingly costly conflicts against these terrorists and the stark, perverse reality remains that the countries of the Gulf are getting rich selling us oil and then passing part of the proceeds on to bands of murderers who have sworn to attack us and our allies. They are worse than drug dealers who kill only through the deadly addiction they promote. These terror bankers and their fat, arrogant, callous royal protectors have for years placed us in double jeopardy by both promoting a different kind of dangerous addiction and then using the proceeds from that to fund efforts to kill us.
Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images
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...
KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
The Saudis always want to "fight the Iranians to the last American" and it is "time for them to get in the game," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tells the French foreign minister in a newly released cable from February 2010. This captures perfectly the point I made yesterday about how to read the reporting in these cables about the private hawkishness of Arab leaders. The question of Arabs and Iran was never an information problem -- it's an analysis problem. The antipathy which many of these leaders feel for Iran has long been well known. But so has their reluctance to do anything about it. And so have the internal divisions within Arab governments and Gulf ruling families, and their deep fears of either Iranian retaliation or popular upheaval, and their bottomless hunger for U.S. weapons systems, and their hopes that the U.S. would magically solve their problems for them, and the disconnect between the palaces and the public.
Iran hawks have been gloating that the quotes from a few Arab leaders in the initial cable release vindicate their analysis and discredit skeptics of military action against Iran. It doesn't. Gates' comment about the Saudis needing to "get into the game" came almost two years after King Abdullah's now-famous "cut off the head of the snake" comment. And another cable from January 2008 shows Abdullah telling Sarkozy that Saudi Arabia "does not want to inflame the situation," recommends "continued international engagement" with Iran and "is not yet ready to take any action besides diplomacy." Maybe, just maybe, those private remarks weren't actually a very reliable guide to what the Saudis will really do in public?
The way the Iran hawks have been leaping at a few juicy quotes while ignoring the entire well-known context only shows the ongoing poverty of their analysis. I would expect better from the serious analysts on the hawkish side, but, well, there you are.
(Note: updated to include the Sarkozy-Abdullah cable)