WikiLeaks silver lining: Unanimity on Iran
Friday, December 3, 2010; 1:30 PM
MANAMA, BAHRAIN - For all the diplomatic fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosure of State Department cables, there might be a silver lining for the United States.
Arab angst about Iran's nuclear ambitions has been exposed, perhaps giving the United States greater leverage in international talks scheduled for next week.
Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said Friday that there was "no contradiction" between the country's public position on Iran and the private concerns expressed in the cables by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
According to the State Department documents, the king in 2009 told U.S. Gen. David Petraeus to stop Iran's nuclear program by whatever means necessary, saying that "the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."
Appearing at a joint news conference Friday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the foreign minister said that "every country in the Middle East has the right for nuclear power for peaceful use." But when it comes to "taking that power to developing into a cycle for weapons grade" nuclear material, Khalifa added, "that is something we can never accept and we can never live with it in this region."
He declined to discuss the specifics of the cable but emphasized that "we've said it to Iran and we've heard it from all."
Clinton herself suggested that the private Arab sentiments expressed in the cables underscored the international unity against the Iranian nuclear program.
"The policy of the United States is reflected in the policies of every country in this region but for Iran," Clinton told reporters. "I think it is fair to say there is no debate in the international community."
The chief U.S. diplomat expressed hope that "perhaps the Iranians, with their return to the talks in Geneva starting Monday, will engage seriously with the international community on what is a concern shared by nations on every continent - but most particularly in the region."
The talks next week will bring Iranian representatives together with diplomats from the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. The talks, the first in more than 14 months, are scheduled to last two days.
Clinton became impassioned when discussing the threat posed by both Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs.
"What we object to is a pursuit of nuclear weapons that can be used to threaten and intimidate their neighbors and beyond," she said. "That is unacceptable and it is destabilizing and unfortunately will spark arms races in both regions that will make both regions even more dangerous."