Arab rulers secretly lobbied America to launch air strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.
Details from 250,000 leaked United States embassy cables obtained by the WikiLeaks whistleblowers website have been published by a number of newspapers given advance sight of the material.
The Guardian said it would be publishing details later in the week of cables relating to the UK – including allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” by a member of the Royal Family which was said to have “startled” US diplomats. There was no immediate response from Buckingham Palace to a report in the Daily Mail that the member of the Royal Family involved was the Duke of York.
The WikiLeaks documents are also said to include “serious political criticism” of David Cameron and “devastating criticism” of British military operations in Afghanistan and,potentially most seriously of all for the UK, The Guardian said that the cables included requests for “specific intelligence” about British MPs.
Both the British and US governments strongly condemned the leaks while insisting that they would not damage relations between the two countries. US officials have spent recent days frantically contacting friendly governments to brief them about the likely disclosures in the cables in an attempt to limit the diplomatic fall-out.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the disclosure of classified diplomatic communications on the front pages of newspapers around the world would “deeply impact” US foreign interests.
“To be clear – such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government,” he said. “By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.”
The most striking of the initial disclosures is that Arab leaders have been privately urging the US to take military action to halt Iran’s nuclear programme before it is too late.
The King of Bahrain was quoted as telling US diplomats that Tehran’s nuclear drive “must be stopped”. In another cable, he was said to have warned: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it”. He was said to have been backed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who was said to have repeatedly urged Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.
The cables were said to include a US assessment that Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could enable it to strike Western European capitals and Moscow and develop more formidable long-range ballistic missiles. There were also said to be instructions to US diplomats to spy on the leadership of the United Nations.