By Riad Kahwaji, CEO, INEGMA
The tens of thousands of top secret U.S. documents published by the Wikileaks website on Monday November 29, will have a devastative effect on credibility of the United States and could either speed up a military action on Iran or end this option all together. The documents’ authenticity was confirmed by Washington, leaving little room to maneuver for officials named in them. Although the impact of these documents would be global on many scales, however the biggest impact would be on the Middle East where most officials and people of the region largely believe in conspiracy theory and have traditionally been suspicious of the United States.
The first immediate implication of the Wikileaks documents would be on future U.S. diplomacy in the region. Almost all Arab officials would think twice about speaking their views honestly in private in front of American officials, especially if such views differ from the public stance of the respective government. These leaks have likely shattered the fragile confidence that existed between U.S. officials and their regional allies and would most likely complicate Washington’s policies in the region. Washington would have now to go out of its way to convince Arab officials about its good intentions and to get their allies to express themselves honestly.
Suspicious people and officials as well as conspiracy theorists will likely have a hard time believing that a mighty superpower like the United States was so helpless and so poorly equipped that it could not prevent the leak of such documents to the public. They would either see Wikileaks as a tool for the U.S. to serve its foreign policies or see it used by American groups – or Israel – that seek to spread war and instability in the region. Their most immediate thought would be that Washington wants to incite public opinion against Iran by revealing the level of its threat and the number of Arab officials who favor the military option. Some of them would even believe that Washington wants to pressure countries named in the documents to take a stronger action against Iran or encourage other countries to adopt similar stances.
Arab countries and officials have so far maintained silence, and would likely keep silent for a while. If pushed to comment Arab officials do have the ground to deny what was stated in the documents on the grounds that the quotations were based on alleged conversations the authors had either heard directly or overheard or were mentioned to them by a third party. Hence, the sources of the authors are weak and there is no way to prove their accuracy. Arab officials could even accuse the authors of attempting to misrepresent facts to serve agendas of war advocates.
As for Iran, many analysts doubt Tehran was too surprised with the content. Iranian reaction is expected to be mixed. On the one hand it would confirm to them once again that some Arab officials are truly concerned about their nuclear program and favor a U.S.-military action against its nuclear facilities. This would increase the level of concern amongst Iranian leaders of an imminent military action against them. On the other hand the Wikileaks documents would be used by Tehran as proof of Washington’s attempts to destabilize the region through dividing its member states and pushing them towards war.
It is still too early to tell whether the Wikileak documents would have any real impact on the future course of events related to international efforts to stop Iran’s controversial nuclear program. If the documents stir huge concerns within the public inside and outside the region over the level of the Iranian threat, and convince many out there that the majority of Arab officials support the military action, then the Wikileaks documents would likely speed up war efforts against Iran. However, if the documents are perceived as an effort by Washington to instigate conflict with Iran by exaggerating the threat, and cause too much embarrassment to Arab officials to the level they open up towards Tehran to deny what was attributed to them, then any support to the military option would lose steam. One analyst pointed out that conversations and statements attributed to Arab officials in the Wikileaks documents suggest that the war was the desire of some Arab leaders while the U.S. was holding back on this option, which might produce a negative reaction from Arab countries to any future military action against Iran.
Overall, ramifications from the Wikileaks documents will continue for quite a while in the Middle East region and it will be really difficult to explain in a convincing manner to Arab people and leaders how the website got a hold of them. Whether the documents’ leak speed up war or cancel it, the most likely victim of this ordeal is Arab confidence in American officials and U.S. diplomacy. Now Washington’s confidence building efforts will have to reach a high level of creativity to regain the lost trust and resume functioning normally. One can simply assume now that U.S. “secret diplomacy” in Middle East is on halt now indefinitely.