The United States has expanded the role of American diplomats in collecting intelligence overseas and at the United Nations, ordering State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries, and exploit the global leaders’ weaknesses.
Revealed in classified State Department cables, made available by WikiLeaks, the directives, going back to 2008, appear to blur the traditional boundaries between statesmen and spies.
According to leaks, Saudi Arabia repeatedly pushed America to attack Iran in a bid to stop it developing nuclear weapons, confidential US documents reveal.
Similarly, leaks show that the Saudi ruler dubbed Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari the biggest hurdle to Pakistan’s progress.
The cables disclosed frank comments behind closed doors. Dispatches from early this year, for instance, quote the aging monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, as speaking scathingly about the leaders of Iraq and Pakistan.
Speaking to another Iraqi official about Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, King Abdullah said, “You and Iraq are in my heart, but that man is not.” The king called President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan the greatest obstacle to that country’s progress. “When the head is rotten,” he said, “it affects the whole body.”
Newspapers working in partnership with the organisation revealed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told American diplomats to spy on other countries’ diplomats at the UN.
Other cables allege links between the Russian government and organised crime and make devastating criticisms of
the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan. The leaks also show London and Washington had grave concerns about the security of Pakistan’s weapons programmes.
He described Pakistan as his “private nightmare,” suggesting the world might wake up one morning “with everything changed” following a potential Islamic extremist takeover. When asked if the use of force on Iran might backfire with moderate Muslims in Pakistan, thereby exacerbating the situation, Barak acknowledged Iran and Pakistan are interconnected, but disagreed with a causal chain.
Near-term implementation of the Iranian-Pakistani gas link project as “very unlikely.” The downbeat comment by the [Source removed] was made despite the recent signing in Istanbul by President Ahmadinejad and President Zardari of an Iranian-Pakistani MOU committing to the gas project. According to this source, [Source removed] indicated that he had several reasons for this opinion, but the only one he elaborated was that “the Pakistanis don’t have the money to pay for either the pipeline, or the gas.”
Further revelations suggest US diplomats pressed other countries to resettle Guantanamo detainees. The United States has been catapulted into worldwide diplomatic crisis, with the leaking of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many of which are designated “secret” – it can be discloses that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership.
These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers’ website, also reveal Washington’s evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.
These include a major shift in relations between China and North Korea, Pakistan’s growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail: Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme; alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime; devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan; and claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square have made uncomfortable reading. They range from serious political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cache of cables contains specific allegations of corruption and against foreign leaders, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from tiny islands in the Caribbean to China and Russia.
The material includes a reference to Vladimir Putin as an “alpha-dog”, Hamid Karzai as being “driven by paranoia” and Angela Merkel allegedly “avoids risk and is rarely creative”. There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near “environmental disaster” last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium.
They disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and include a profile of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.