While condemning the disclosure of secret U.S. State Department messages as “reckless” and “irresponsible,” Israel‘s ambassador to the U.S. said the documents made public by Wikileaks revealed widespread fear over Iran‘s destabilizing influence in the Middle East.
Speaking to an audience at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Michael Oren said Israel “(shares) the Obama administration’s concern about these leaks” but that they didn’t make any groundbreaking revelations about Israel’s posture toward a nuclear-armed Iran.
“We are perhaps fortunate that our communications with the Obama administration on the confidential level are almost exactly to what we say publicly,” Mr. Oren said.
Among the items in the cache of more than 250,000 cables a report that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak warned U.S. congressional leaders in May 2009 that the world had six to 18 months “in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” After that, the “collateral damage” from a military operation would be too great, Mr. Barak was cited as saying.
The documents also apparently revealed that Saudi Arabia‘s King Abdullah has repeatedly urged the U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, asking Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” before Iran can develop its nuclear capabilities, according to the New York Times, one of four news outlets given access to the documents before Wikileaks published them on its own website Nov. 28.
Another message cited Bahrain‘s king late last year as saying that Iran’s nuclear program “must be stopped” and that “the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” the Times reported.
In a press conference today reacting to the leaked documents, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said they weren’t secret at all, but instead were fabricated and released by the U.S. government as a means of sowing dissension among peaceful allies in the region, according to news reports. He added that the publication of the leaks was an act of hostility towards Iran.
If there is hostility, it is only because leaders are reacting to a pervasive sense of fear throughout their region, Mr. Oren said.
“There’s hostility because there’s fear, and I think that’s what’s been revealed by the Wikileaks, the fear of Arab leaders” of Iran, he said. “It’s quite clear from these leaks that the Iranian threat, not just of Iranian nuclearization, but of Iranian support for terror, Iranian attempts to undermine pro-Western governments throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, is a threat not just to Israel, but a threat to all Middle Eastern states and a threat to the world.”
Iran has repeatedly said that it’s nuclear ambitions are benign and that it is developing a nuclear program to meet energy demand.
Israel and the U.S. have said that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. The international community has leveled economic sanctions against Iran, which the U.S. says has consistently lied about its aspirations. Mr. Oren hinted that a military strike on uranium enrichment facilities, which Israel is rumored to have planned, is still an option.
“The American position is that all options remain on the table. Our position is that all options are on the table. We want those options to be credible,” Mr. Oren said.