WikiLeaks and American Leadership in the Middle East
WikiLeaks exposes Saudi Arabia's desire to attack Iran
We've heard a lot in recent months how "American leadership" in the Middle East has been called into question. David Ignatius put the conventional wisdom best when he wrote that "U.S. power in the region is perceived to be weakening." Senator Joseph Lieberman devoted an entire speech to the subject.
To understand what this actually means, it's useful to review some recently disclosed information:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, according to leaked US diplomatic cables that describe how other Arab allies have secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.
The revelations, in secret memos from US embassies across the Middle East, expose behind-the-scenes pressures in the scramble to contain the Islamic Republic, which the US, Arab states and Israel suspect is close to acquiring nuclear weapons. Bombing Iranian nuclear facilities has hitherto been viewed as a desperate last resort that could ignite a far wider war....
Leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as "evil", an "existential threat" and a power that "is going to take us to war".
Now, we learn something else from these cables, namely:
Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.
There may be good reasons for the U.S. to use force to delay Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but to do so because the chief financiers of al-Qaeda asked us seems like a pretty lousy one to me. So the next time you hear some pundit or politician moan about American power or leadership in the Middle East, or how our "allies" are doubting our resolve, this is what it's about: having American men and women die on behalf of decadent monarchs and presidents-for-life who are unwilling to fight their own battles.