Embarrassment for Coalition as Wikileaks prepares to release secret US papers
Potentially “embarrassing” comments on the formation of Britain’s coalition government are to be revealed this week as millions of leaked US diplomatic documents are made public.Photo: AP
The series of revelations on the Wikileaks website – which are expected to begin tonight – will put a fresh strain on the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States.
The leaked diplomatic cables, dating from January 2009 to June 2010, cover a huge range of issues and include “lively commentaries” sent to Washington about a host of world leaders whose numbers are understood to include David Cameron and Gordon Brown.
Another series of leaks is thought to deal with Canada’s “inferiority complex”.
Whitehall sources expect them to be “drip fed” out over about a week.
The revelations about what US diplomats reported back on Gordon Brown’s final months in power and the formation of the coalition after May’s election are thought to be among the earliest to be made public in Britain.
A coalition source described the leaks as likely to be “embarrassing rather than damaging” for the current government.
However, he added: “The last Labour government has a lot more reason to be nervous.”
Mr Brown’s rocky relationship with President Barack Obama, which included a notorious visit to New York in September 2009 during which the White House was accused of “snubbing” the former prime minister, is almost certain to be mentioned, as is Britain’s troop withdrawal from Iraq.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that frank assessments of the likelihood – or unlikelihood – of the coalition lasting are set to be included.
The source said: “There could be queries on whether the coalition would survive. But they only cover one month of the current administration.”
US officials have warned that the latest tranche of documents will be far the most damaging of Wikileaks’s output so far because of the potential harm they could do to relations with America’s allies.
Previous leaks have included hundreds of thousands of secret Iraq war logs.
Louis Susman, the US Ambassador to London, has briefed senior British ministers on the content of the latest leaks.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the first tranche of documents, to be published in full tomorrow after an initial release tonight, are expected to feature “lively commentaries” by US diplomats on world leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, and Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
Coalition sources say Tuesday’s haul will deal with North and South Korea, as well as Guantánamo Bay, while Wednesday’s tranche will include comments on Pakistan and counter-piracy operations in Djibouti.
Thursday will see attention focus on the Canadians and their “inferiority complex” while corruption allegations in Afghanistan will be under the spotlight on Friday. Saturday will cover Yemen while next Sunday will see the focus shift to China.
P J Crowley, the US State Department spokesman, said “We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn Wikileaks for the release of classified material It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible.
“When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” he said.
The State Department “has known all along” that Wikileaks possesses classified documents, but it was not possible to predict exactly what information would be made public and what impact it would make, he said.
“We wish this would not happen, but we are obviously prepared for the possibility that it will,” he added.