Monday, December 13, 2010

Part 2 - After 12 days of WikiLeaks cables, the world looks on US with new eyes

Reaction across the globe to the leaked US embassy cables has ranged from anger and bitterness to extreme indifference

Pakistani demonstrators burn a US flag in support of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange during a rally in Multan. Photograph: Mohammad Malik/AFP/Getty Images

Middle East



Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the Wikileaks revelations as "psychological warfare." Iran's foreign ministry spokesman thundered: "The enemies of the Islamic world are pursuing a project of Iranophobia and disunity. This project only protects the interests of the Zionist regime and its supporters." Still, the documents will reinforce the regime's world view by underlining the huge effort being made by the US to contain Iran by applying pressure for UN sanctions over its nuclear programme or stopping arms deliveries to groups like Hamas and Hizbullah. It will be harder to maintain the pretence of good relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states because of exposure of their fear of Tehran. Iran remains defiant and is not as isolated as Washington would like. It is influential in Iraq and has good relations with Turkey. It is clear that Barack Obama's efforts to reach out to it have failed, with some arguing he was never serious about engagement. The status quo looks volatile and threatening.

Israel

Israel has been largely untroubled by because US views on key Middle Eastern issues especially on Iran, Syria and Lebanon, are so close to its own. "Israel is not the centre of international attention," said Binyamin Netanyahu. "Normally, there's a gap between what is said publicly and what is said privately, but in this case, the gap is not large." The most significant revelation was that Israel believes that beyond a certain point attacking Iran would cause too much "collateral damage."Israel can be seen maintaining discreet contact with Gulf states and have an intriguing intelligence link to Saudi Arabia. It suits Israel that the Palestinian issue and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories do not feature prominently. The Palestinian Authority denied suggestions it acquiesced in Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's only public comment on the revelations was to say "they do not concern us" despite the sensational exposure of comments made by King Abdullah about attacking Iran "to cut off the head of the snake." It will be unhappy about US complaints that it remains a source of funding for the Taliban and other extremists. It may be pleased its counter-terrorist efforts against al-Qaida, at home and in neighbouring Yemen, have been given positive exposure. There is little evidence of US pressure over human rights and democracy.

Lebanon

Ever volatile Lebanon has been shaken by documents showing close links between the pro-western government and the US. The most damaging revelation described its defence minister offering advice on how Israel could defeat Hezbollah if a new war erupted. But Elias Murr complained that the cables were "inaccurate" and taken out of context. Tensions are already high because of expectations Hizbullah members will be indicted for the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Hariri. Al-Akhbar, a leftist and pro-Hizbullah paper that has published leaks of the leaks about the Arab world, has come under cyber attack.

Syria

Syria has not responded officially to disclosures that it is the subject of intense US efforts to stop deliveries of weapons to Hezbollah. Syrians say they are struck by the absence of embarrassing information about Israel. Sami Moubayed, an influential commentator, wrote: "Perhaps WikiLeaks will one day tell us, for example, what the Israelis are hiding about the pre-Bush era." Damascus insists it only supports resistance to Israel and blames it for ramping up regional tensions. Ample evidence of American strategy to weaken the alliance between Damascus and Tehran, but there is no sign that it has worked.

Yemen

Yemen's government has faced embarrassing questions in parliament about evidence ministers lied about US air strikes against al-Qaida targets. Cables revealed President Ali Abdullah Saleh is worried about being painted as an American pawn and restricts counter-terrorist cooperation even as Washington presses for more determined action. Opposition MP Mansur al Zindani complained of a "powerful blow to parliament and the public." There are fears the revelations could help al-Qaida win new recruits in the Arab world's poorest country.

Libya

Muammar Gaddafi praised WikiLeaks for exposing US "hypocrisy." The whistleblowing website has "proved America is not what it has led allies and friends to believe it to be." There was no comment on threats against Britain if the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi, died in prison in Scotland.

Egypt

Revelations about Egypt – some leaked to the independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm — have been dismissed by Cairo as containing "nothing new." But they include evidence of its fears about Sudan breaking up, President Mubarak's profound hostility to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and bleak US assessments of future prospects for democracy, including the prediction that Mubarak, now 82, will stand for yet another term next year. The recent parliamentary elections, widely dismissed as a charade, tend to confirm US views.

Tunisia

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali will be furious at cables describing high-level corruption, a sclerotic regime, and deep hatred of his wife and her family. Deeply unflattering reports from the US ambassador in Tunis make no bones about the state of the small Maghreb country, widely considered one of the most repressive in North Africa. No surprise that Tunisia blocked the website of Beirut's al-Akhbar, which published some of the documents.

Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted furiously to US diplomatic cables that suggested he was a corrupt closet Islamist. As Turkey heads for elections next year, secular Republican opponents may try to exploit his evident discomfort.

The cables highlighted three principal issues. Erdogan's personal probity – he was reported to have eight secret Swiss bank accounts; the supposed Islamist agenda of the ruling AKP party; and Turkey's perceived drift away from the western alliance and closer embrace of countries such as Syria and Iran.

Erdogan's response was both to dismiss the cables as tittle-tattle, and to conjure conspiracy theories."The un-serious cables of American diplomats, formed from gossip, magazines, allegations and slander are spreading worldwide via the internet," Erdogan said. "Are there disclosures of state secrets, or is there another aim?" he askedd. "… Is it carrying out a veiled, dark propaganda? Are there efforts to affect, manipulate relations between certain countries?"
by guardian

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