Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Cheers For Wikileaks!

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By Barry Rubin

The Wikileaks could be a beneficial revelation, a turning point, changing Western perceptions of the Middle East.

After all, only the leak of U.S. secret documents is forcing--finally!--the mass media to recognize that its entire model of the Middle East has been wrong. For years, we have been told that the region revolves around the Arab-Israeli conflict.

And that was to some extent true up through the end of the 1980s. But now the Middle East revolves around the battle between Islamists and nationalists, and especially between the Iran-led bloc (Iran, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas, Iraqi insurgents, the government that rules Turkey) and most of the other countries.

Here's how the New York Times put it in an article:

"The cables reveal how Iran’s ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries — notably the Saudis — in a common cause. Publicly, these Arab states held their tongues, for fear of a domestic uproar and the retributions of a powerful neighbor. Privately, they clamored for strong action — by someone else.

"If they seemed obsessed with Iran, though, they also seemed deeply conflicted about how to deal with it — with diplomacy, covert action or force. In one typical cable, a senior Omani military officer is described as unable to decide what is worse: `A strike against Iran’s nuclear capability and the resulting turmoil it would cause in the Gulf, or inaction and having to live with a nuclear-capable Iran.'”

Here's what Raymond Bonner, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, wrote on this subject:

"Sure, we knew that Middle East governments were concerned about Iran. But we didn't know to what degree. The cumulative impact of these cables is profound.... ...This the same chilling language, which the American public is accustomed to hearing from hardline [on Iran] Israeli officials. Hearing it expressed by Muslim leaders in the Middle East might now have a profound effect on American public opinion."

And that's not all. Up to now, the Western media has overwhelmingly whitewashed the Turkish regime as just a bunch of democratic-minded moderates. The leaks show that they are better understood to be Islamists, though that should have already been apparent.

Up until now, the Obama Administration has continued to engage with Syria, supposedly trying to moderate it and pull it away from Iran--both futile, indeed counterproductive, enterprises.  The leaks show Syria's radicalism, close links with Tehran, and how it has lied to the U.S. government making the Obama Administration look foolish. Even Egyptian President Husni Mubarak warned the United States that the Syrian regime could not be trusted.

And here's my summary of some of the most important revelations--with links.

Could this possibly be a turning point in persuading Western governments, the media, and academia to deal with reality?

Now, if you want to understand this Middle East-- and the tasks for the U.S. government in dealing with this kind of Middle East--I plead with you to read my article  "U.S. Middle East Policy: Too Many Challenges and yet a Single Theme."

Note 1: Please keep in mind that the leaks consist of two totally different parts.

--Intelligence materials are direct from sources and may be totally inaccurate. A report saying that an Iranian leader has cancer, for example, doesn't mean it is true but merely what some sources are saying.

--Reports on meetings and discussions are accurate, reflecting policy positions of officials.

Note 2: The concept of two cheers--instead of three--means that something has done some good even though one doesn't approve of it completely.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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