Saudi Arabia's King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needed to cooperate with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence and subversion in Iraq. The King was particularly adamant on this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well. Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.
As the US cable notes, Saudi bureaucrats often take a pacific stance towards Iran, but diverge significantly from the more bellicose advice received from senior Saudi royals. In December 2005, the Saudi king expressed his anger that the Bush administration had ignored his advice "that whereas in the past the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein had agreed on the need to contain Iran, U.S. policy had now given Iraq to Iran as a ‘gift on a golden platter.'" The king's "frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran" were recalled by the Saudi ambassador to Washington in an April 2008 meeting with Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the incoming Central Command chief, while the foreign minister said that while he preferred economic pressure, the “use of military pressure against Iran should not be ruled out.”
The Saudi Foreign Minister, on the other hand, instead called for much more severe US and international sanctions on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on bank lending. Prince Muqrin echoed these views, emphasizing that some sanctions could be implemented without UN approval. Saudi Deputy Director for Western Affairs Department Mojahid Ali Alwahbi, for his part, strongly advised against taking military action to neutralize Iran's program, instead asserting that establishing a US-Iranian dialogue as the best course of action, suggesting that the U.S. open an Interest Section or reopen its our embassy in Tehran.
In a cable sent in February 2009, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey recounted: "President Mubarak told [Middle East envoy George] Mitchell during his recent visit here that he did not oppose our talking with the Iranians, as long as 'you don't believe a word they say.'" Scobey continues in the cable: "Mubarak has a visceral hatred for the Islamic Republic, referring repeatedly to Iranians as 'liars,' and denouncing them for seeking to destabilize Egypt and the region."
The leaked documents also show that Mubarak was in agreement with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that a nuclear Iran would lead to an arms race in the Middle East and result in "the biggest threat to non-proliferation efforts since the Cuban missile crisis."
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed spoke about the Iranian threat with a great sense of urgency in his March 2006 meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary Welch. Strongly favoring taking action against Iran and its president sooner rather than later, he said "I believe this guy is going to take us to war. ... It's a matter of time," adding that action against Iran and President Ahmedinejad should be taken within one year's time and that was unwilling to wait much longer. "Personally, I cannot risk it with a guy like Ahmedinejad. He is young and aggressive."
A diplomatic report states that while the Crown Prince "wasn't suggesting that the first option was ‘bombing’ Iran,” he still felt “They have to be dealt with before they do something tragic.” Three years later he would remark that "Ahmadinejad is Hitler."
Appearing convinced that it was only a matter of time before Israel or the U.S. would strike Iranian nuclear facility targets, Mohammed bin Zayed asked Lt. Gen. Dunn whether it would be possible for anyone to "take out" all locations of concern in Iran via air power. When Lt. Gen. Dunn voiced doubt that this would be possible given the dispersed locations, the Crown Prince explained "Then it will take ground forces!"
The Crown Prince also said that he did not think it was necessary to wait for all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to agree before proceeding with any plans against Iran: "Whoever is interested in getting on board ship should be encouraged. I don't think it's logical or smart to wait for everyone to get involved so we can sail. ... If another GCC member believes it's not right, that's his choice." Another cable notes that while trust exists between the U.S. and the UAE, the rest of the GCC had continuing concerns. "Your problem today is to fix your relations with the GCC, quickly. A few countries in the region are already dealing with Iran as if they had the bomb."
Nonetheless, the documents show that UAE officials are reluctant to take actions that could anger Iran and compromise their extensive trading relationship, stating that they should be a "very last resort." "If you can solve something without involving the UAE, please do so."
Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, in a December 2009 meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman and U.S. Ambassador to Doha Joseph Evan LeBaron, characterized the Gulf state's relationship with Iran as one in which "they lie to us, and we lie to them."
The Prime Minister also said of the Iranians: "You always think you have a deal with them and then you don't," continuing that it is important to "make them tell you (what they will do). Otherwise they will say 'yes, but...' and the 'but' will be worse than a 'no.'" When the American diplomat contended that the Iranians are uninterested in making proposals, the Prime Minister replied, "You don't understand. Even Mousavi can,t make a deal!"
Jordanian officials employed a metaphor of an octopus "whose tentacles reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates" when describing the Islamic Republic in one particularly revealing cable. Iran's "tentacles" include the states of Qatar and Syria, Jordanians contend, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi government sometimes seen as supplicant to Tehran, and Shia communities throughout the region. While Jordanian officials expressed doubt that U.S. engagement would convince Iran to withdraw its "tentacles," they expressed belief they could be severed if Iran is deprived of "hot-button issues" that make it a hero to many on the Arab street, such as its championing of the Palestinian cause.
Muwaffaq Ajlouni, the Deputy Director of Jordan's Foreign Ministry's Arab and Middle East Affairs Department was more blunt: "Iran is not welcomed in the Arab world, but it is taking advantage of helpless people."
Jordanian Upper House President Zeid Rifai argued that if the U.S., the EU, and the Arab states agree that under no circumstances should Iran be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon, military force will become the only option. "Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter," was how he put it in 2008. While Rifai judged a military strike would have "catastrophic impact on the region," he nonetheless thought preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons would pay enough dividends to make it worth the risks.
During a February 2010 meeting with CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon, Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said commented that the Iranians are "not fools," and claimed that Tehran realized there are "certain lines it cannot cross" (i.e., direct confrontation with the U.S.). Regarding Gulf Cooperation Council's relations with the Iranian government, he stated that "Iran is a big country with muscles and we must deal with it, adding with a laugh that "I must say that as long as [the U.S.] is on the horizon, we have nothing to fear."
In another cable, a senior Omani military officer is appears unable to decide which is worse: “a strike against Iran’s nuclear capability and the resulting turmoil it would cause in the Gulf, or inaction and having to live with a nuclear-capable Iran.”
In November 2009, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa tells head of US central command General David Petraeus that Iran is the source of much of the trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the leaked embassy cable, al-Khalifa also 'forcefully' urged the U.S. to terminate Iran's nuclear program 'by whatever means necessary.' "That program must be stopped," he stressed. "The danger of letting [the program] go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."
King bin Isa al-Khalifa also specifically mentions NATO in the cable and confirms that Bahrain, who provides the base for the American Fifth Fleet, had agreed to the Alliance's request to use Isa Airbase for AWACS missions, although details are not discussed.
Kuwaiti Chief of Kuwaiti Military Intelligence Abdulrahman al-Hadhood, discussing Iran with CENTCOM Commander David Petraeus and the United States' Ambassador to Kuwait, asserted that the future of Iran (and its relations with its regional neighbors) is in the hands of Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khamene'i. The direction in which Khamene'i will lead Iran in this post-presidential election era will largely depend on whether he forges a compromise with Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani or continues to pull the "puppet strings" of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Al-Hadhoud said the Iranian public, in staging mass protests in the wake of the elections, had "crossed the fear line." The Gulf state's Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff also expressed that it was Kuwait's understanding that Iran was supporting Shia in the Gulf and extremists in Yemen.
Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkish Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs, tells U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns in early 2010 that "alarm bells are ringing even in Damascus" with respect to regional states' perception of Iran as a growing threat. Israeli intelligence officials also tell the United States in November of 2009 that Tehran understands efforts to split Syria from its influence, and is working hard to deepen its relationship with the country as a result.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed expressed his concerns about Iran's growing foothold in nearby Yemen to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman in late 2009. "We believe you don't want us to believe" the mounting evidence of Iranian involvement in the nearby Gulf state, he told Deputy Secretary. The Crown Prince also voiced his distrust of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, alleging that Iranian ships have unloaded weapons destined for the Houthis, a Yemeni Shia separatist group. "We know your priority is Al-Qaeda, but don't forget Iran. Al-Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb; Iran is a matter of time," bin Zayed told Poneman.
In November 2009, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu tells senior US diplomat Philip Gordon that the Turkish government actually sees Ahmadinejad as "more flexible" than others who are inside the Iranian Government. It is unclear whether Davutoglu was referring to domestic pressures on Ahmadinejad following the contested 2009 election as a reason for this "flexibility," but in conversation with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns in February 2010, Turkish Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs Feridun Sinirlioglu points to the Greens, arguing that sanctions would have the impact of uniting Iranians behind the regime and only harm the opposition.
The cables also provide a glimpse of how Turkey views its role in the Middle East, a "third option" to regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia (the latter of whom Davutoglu labels as a "puppet" of the United States). Citing the "sense of vision [and] justice" that he says Turkish foreign policy exudes, Davutoglu contends that country can "limit Iranian influence in the region." Sinirlioglu would point to this newfound influence three months later when he expressed his concern that military action against Iran might collaterally impact Turkey.
Masoud Shafaee is an attorney and freelance Middle East analyst based in Washington, D.C. He holds a Juris Doctor from American University's Washington College of Law and a master's degree in international affairs from the School of International Service. He was born in Tehran and hails from California.