Rattled by Wikileaks
The latest revelations expose imperialist plans against Iran and the whole rotten business of hidden diplomacy. Eddie Ford calls for freedom of information
Another day, another glut of Wikileaks. Indeed, an embarrassment of riches - or, rather, of state and diplomatic secrets. Once again we get a generous glimpse into the ugly, putrid, dog-eats-dog world of 'great' power manoeuvres, machinations and ceaseless double-dealing, double-talk and back-stabbing.
Even more to the point, of course, the latest batch of Wikileaks are a source of extreme discomfort for US imperialism and its fractious allies. Hence the furious reaction of the US government, amongst others, to the latest revelations. Not that its rivals come out smelling of roses either - quite the opposite, in fact. As Wikileaks usefully reminds us, our enemy's enemy is not our friend, but normally just another enemy.
We learn that US officials have been told to spy on United Nations officials. Then again, no great surprises there, as spying and cheating on your friends has been standard political fare in international relations for centuries - keep your friends close but your enemies even closer. We also discover that China is quite prepared to ditch North Korea and accept a united Korea under Seoul's hegemony. But, then again, anyone who expected any form of principled or consistent 'anti-imperialism' from the corrupt, plutocratic Chinese bureaucracy would clearly be a deluded person indeed. National self-interest reigns supreme in Beijing, where to get rich is now glorious.
Iran in US sites
However, what is clearly the most significant aspect coming out of the new Wikileaks is the degree to which Iran is already targeted for war. And what is truly revelatory is just how many enemies Iran has, and the sheer ferocity of the animus directed against the Tehran regime. To put it mildly, we are hardly witnessing a magnificent display of Islamic solidarity from Iran's Arab neighbours or supposed 'anti-Zionist'partners - which must be a source of comfort for Israel. In fact, if anything, the Arab states seem more than eager to do Israel's bidding - which is to deal with the Iranian question once and for all.
So, for example, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi - a democracy-free zone - worries about Iran in front of the US ambassador, Richard Olsen, who then remarks to bin Zayed that he has "a strategic view of the region that is curiously close to the Israeli one". Commenting on this illuminating exchange, Robert Fisk writes with his characteristic trenchancy: "But of course he does. Line them up. They will pray in their golden mosques, these kings and emirs and generals, buying more and more American weapons to protect themselves from the 'Hitler' of Tehran - better, I suppose, than the 2003 Hitler of the Tigris or the 1956 Mussolini of the Nile - and entreat god that they will be saved by the might of America and Israel."
Hence the 251,287 secret US diplomatic emails, cables, memos, etc - amounting to 1.6 gigabytes of text files on a humble little memory stick - showing Arab states urging air strikes and other military actions against Iran. Saudi Arabia, in particular, wants something done about troublesome Shia Iran - quickly. So the repellent King Abdullah has "frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme". Another cable states: "He told you [Americans] to cut off the head of the snake" - these being the words of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, summing up Abdullah's meeting with US general David Petraeus in April 2008.
Naturally, such venomous sentiments have been expressed by other Arab governments. In a conversation with a US diplomat, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who runs a Sunni dictatorship in Bahrain, "argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their nuclear programme, by whatever means necessary". Similarly, Zeid Rifai, then the president of the Jordanian senate, told a senior US official - "Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter." Various Arab officials in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt often refer to Iran as "evil", an "existential threat" and as a power that "is going to take us to war", whilst Qatar's prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim Jaber al-Thani, said of Tehran: "They lie to us, and we lie to them". And so on ad nauseam. Another disclosure is that Russia, apparently one of Iran's staunchest allies, was prepared to withhold the S-300 air defence missile from Iran in return for the supply of $1 billion worth of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles. Money talks.
Of course, when it comes to "stirring up trouble" then no-one can surpass Israel - which, as the Wikileaks easily demonstrate, is desperate to preserve its regional nuclear monopoly and prevent what it calls "its own 9/11". To which end Israel is quite prepared to go it alone if necessary and 'take out' Tehran under its own steam. And nobody can seriously doubt that Israel - mainly thanks to US imperialist largesse, obviously - has the necessary military hardware or ideological determination (fanaticism) to mount some sort of devastating attack on Iran - though it is seriously open to question as to whether even Israel could deal a definitive knock-out blow to the Islamic Republic and its nuclear-geopolitical ambitions, except, of course, by nuking the country. Overall, the US embassy assessed Israel's position in this way: "The [Israeli Defence Force], however, strikes us as more inclined than ever to look toward a military strike, whether launched by Israel or by us, as the only way to destroy or even delay Iran's plans."
The Wikileaks more than show that the threat of a military strike against Iran is becoming very real, despite the fact that most of its nuclear facilities are very well protected, as alluded to by Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak. For example, the Natanz enrichment plant - which covers 100,000 square metres - is eight metres underground and covered by a 2.5-metre thick shell of concrete and another 22 metres of earth on top of that. In order to put this complex out of commission for good would require at least the use of a nuclear-tipped bunker-buster, like the US's 400-kilotonne-yield B61-11. Conventional weaponry is just ineffective: not even the laser-guided but non-nuclear GBU-17 bunker-buster - which Israel already has, thanks to the Bush administration - has sufficient penetration for use against "hardened and deeply buried targets". Therefore it is far from unreasonable, or alarmist, to believe that any serious attack on Iran would involve the use of nuclear weaponry. In perhaps an ominous portent, on the same day that the Wikileaks were released, assassins on motorbikes killed one of Iran's top nuclear scientists, Dr Majid Shahriari, as he drove to work in Tehran, by attaching a bomb to his car. His colleague, Dr Fereydoon Abbasi, was seriously injured in an identical attack. The finger of suspicion points immediately to Israel, though, of course, there is a host of internal opposition groups that might also have carried out the attack - not to mention agents of the Arab states that so fear and hate Iran, as catalogued by Wikileaks.
Obviously, the US is as keen as Israel to prevent nuclear proliferation - not in order to 'preserve peace', but rather to protect its own imperialist hegemony both within the region and the world generally. Thus US defence secretary Robert Gates, in a meeting earlier this year with Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, warned that "time was running out". If Iran was allowed to develop nuclear weapons, the US and its allies would face a very "different world" in four to five years, with a destabilising nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Sharing the same concern, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US officials in May last year that both he and Mubarak were agreed that a nuclear Iran would lead others in the region to develop nuclear weapons, resulting in "the biggest threat to non-proliferation efforts since the Cuban missile crisis".
Out of the endless attempts by the US to contain and isolate Iran, one of the most interesting - and ruthless - examples is to be seen in a December 2008 letter from the then US deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, to Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan concerning an arms shipment to Iran that went via Armenia: "We value our positive relationship with your government, as we explore a range of shared interests", begins Negroponte's letter, but then proceeds to wield the very big stick, warning of sanctions up to and including a discontinuation of US aid to Armenia. Unsurprisingly, Sargsyan feels he has no choice but to back down, especially when faced by the prospect of regular "unannounced visits by US experts" to ensure "compliance".
On the other hand, president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan was only too happy to comply with US wishes. He told William Burns, the US under-secretary of state, that Iranian "provocations" in Azerbaijan are on the rise, specifically citing Tehran's "financing of radical Islamic groups and Hezbollah terrorists". Aliyev added that the blatant fraud in Iran's June 2009 presidential elections was "outrageous" - presumably in contrast to the faultlessly democratic manner in which he was elected president himself in 2003. Aliyev may be a crook, but he's our crook - to sum up US foreign policy.
Knowledge is power
The CPGB is unequivocal about Wikileaks. We have nothing but praise for the tremendous service it has done in exposing the dishonesty, venality and mendaciousness of the US government - prepared to bring the Middle East to the brink of war as part of its struggle to retain full-spectrum dominance: everything else is expendable, including its allies or friends. Without doubt, Wikileaks has dented US imperialist arrogance and opened up many people's eyes to the brutal reality of its power - which can only be a positive thing. We say hands off Iran, whilst supporting the revolutionary, democratic struggle from below to overthrow the vicious, blood-stained dictatorship that is the Islamic Republic.
More generally still, knowledge is power - hence the strenuous efforts of governments, the rich and the powerful to stem the liberating tide of data through erecting various repressive bureaucratic mechanisms to control access to this information. Hence, just to take Britain alone, we have an armoury of intellectual property and libel laws, DA notices, laws circumscribing free speech, etc. Just as inevitably, of course, there is resistance to this information clampdown by those who wish to break the grip that the capitalist state and mass media have on information dissemination. Wikileaks and its Swedish-born founder, Julian Assange, are part of this ongoing guerrilla resistance to the bourgeois state and the media barons - being prepared, quite correctly, to use every trick in the book to get the information out there. Like setting up in countries with less repressive laws, such as Sweden, widespread 'mirroring' - that is, creating copies of the website in case it falls foul of a government ruling - strict commitments to the anonymity of sources, the skilful use of the mainstream media, and so on.
Barrels must be scraped. So secretary of state Hillary Clinton responded to Wikileaks by declaring that the US "strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information" - which, according to her, "puts people's lives in danger", "threatens our national security" and "undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems". Indeed, Clinton ventured, the Wikileaks disclosures are not just an attack on the US, but on the entire "international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity". (Interestingly, a similar sentiment is expressed on the Socialist Unity website by Andy Newman, who whines: "Diplomacy is an important lubrication for the relationships between states; and some of the recent revelations, particularly those relating to Iran and Korea, are simply destabilising of already tense situations.") As for Clinton, she warned darkly that the US government was taking "steps to ensure this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again".
Backing her up, US attorney general Eric Holder condemned Wikileaks for using the information it had obtained "irresponsibly" - as opposed to members of the press and news agencies, clearly - and went on to state that there is a "real basis" for believing that "crimes have been committed". Peter King, a Republican congressman from New York, has gone even further, demanding that Wikileaks be declared a "foreign terrorist organisation" - not because it has used terror or violence, you understand, but rather on the grounds that it has released "inconvenient information", which for him represents a moral equivalence to terrorism. Therefore, argues King, Wikileaks' funds and assets should be seized and Assange should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
Now there is the very convenient news (for some) that Assange had been added to Interpol's 'wanted list' through the issuing of a so-called Red Notice (not to be confused with an international arrest warrant) on November 30 for "sex crimes": that is, rape allegations stemming from a visit he made to Sweden in August. He is now said to be at a secret location somewhere outside London, along with fellow Wikileaks enthusiasts.
The CPGB, on the other hand, not only upholds Wikileaks' right to exist but its publishing of embarrassing government secrets. We remember that the Bolsheviks did exactly the same when they came to power in 1917 and published the secret treaties between Russia and its French and British allies. Russia was to get the straits of Constantinople and Turkey's Asian empire was to be partitioned by the three powers. Leon Trotsky, the Soviet Republic's foreign affairs commissar, forcibly denounced secret diplomacy as a "necessary weapon in the hands of a propertied minority", used in order to "deceive the majority in order to make the latter obey its interests".
Trotsky went on to say that the "struggle against imperialism" means at the same time "the struggle against capitalist diplomacy" and he was determined that the peoples of Europe and the whole world should know the truth about the plots and plans for annexations hatched by the capitalists and their agents. "To abolish secret diplomacy is the first condition of an honourable, popular, and really democratic foreign policy," he declared.
For the CPGB too the fight against official secrets is a fundamental part of our struggle for socialism and democracy. And in that spirit we applaud Assange and Wikileaks
1. The Independent November 30