Initial impressions of the Wikileaks U.S. embassy cables

Monday, November 29, 2010

As a foreign policy addict I've found yesterday's Wikileaks release to be far more interesting than the other recent releases of theirs they have chosen to hype up a week or so before the big release. I'm still not sure what to conclude from this, except this: the US actually comes out looking pretty normal in the cables I've read, normal for the world's foremost superpower, that is. The fallout the US wanted to prevent seems to be not any fear of their own image, but rather embarrassing allies and the effects that could have.

On Iran, for example: no surprise that Israel was pushing for an attack, but Saudi Arabia was pushing for an attack too. Pretty much every regional power seems to be in favour of a US-led attack on Iran, which would weaken them while they continue to pretend to be supportive of a fellow Islamic state. Well, except for the foreign ministry which seems much less hawkish.

This cable gives some (unsurprising) insight into Azerbaijan's opposition to normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia before Nagorno-Karabakh is resolved.

US spying on certain leaders in places such as Africa is new information but is also unsurprising. I would expect this type of thing to happen anyway:

Biographic and biometric data, including health, opinions toward the US, training history, ethnicity (tribal and/or clan), and language skills of key and emerging political, military, intelligence, opposition, ethnic, religious, and business leaders. Data should include email addresses, telephone and fax numbers, fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans.

This one was also interesting, about how the EU did a "you can't fire me because I quit"-type move when they did a half-boycott of Ahmadinejad's inauguration.

Keep in mind though that all of these documents were simply classified as secret and not top secret, and the Pentagon is going to do what it can to make sure that even these documents can't be leaked anymore.

The easiest way to see what effect this is going to have on American relations with other countries is to read newspapers in other languages to see what they are saying. This page lets you find cables by countries referenced, and those cables are going to be the ones that get referenced in newspapers in other countries. This article in Turkish for example is about a cable referencing the lawsuit that tried to close the AK Party down in Turkey. So to see what the reaction is to the release right now, just use the keyword Wikileaks in Google News in a number of languages to see what you can find.

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