WikiLeaks claims are ‘psychological warfare’ says Ahmadinejad
Iranian president claims that the leaks are part of a campaign of psychological warfare against his countryIranian TV highlighted evidence from state department cables that US diplomats are apparently engaged in espionage. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
Iran today lashed out at the WikiLeaks revelations, with the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dismissing the controversial leaks as a “worthless” psychological warfare campaign against his country. But Israel said it felt vindicated by the public exposure of Arab and international concern over Iran’s nuclear programme.
“We don’t think this information was leaked,” the Iranian president insisted during a televised press conference in Tehran. “We think it was organised to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”
Ahmadinejad told reporters that documents highlighting Arab hostility to Iran and its alleged nuclear ambitions would have no impact. “We are friends with the regional countries and mischievous acts will not affect relations,” he said.
Iranian media commented that the US does not trust its “agents” inside the Islamic republic and claimed there were US links to the mass protests and unrest that followed last year’s disputed presidential election.
Press TV, the English-language Iranian TV channel, also highlighted evidence from the state department cables that US diplomats are apparently engaged in espionage – a charge that will hold special resonance in a country where the long-empty US embassy is still routinely referred to as “the nest of spies”.
Arab governments maintained a discreet silence but Arabic-language media highlighted Guardian reports that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in particular had advocated military action against Iran to stop its nuclear programme. “The Arabs agitated against Iran,” the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV headlined its main story. Its rival, the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya, initially made no reference to King Abdullah’s call to attack Iran “to cut off the head of the snake” or to similarly hawkish comments by King Hamad of Bahrain, but later changed its story to include these.
The Saudi paper Okaz zoomed in on warnings by the British government that the massive leak could endanger lives. Other Arab media headlined stories focusing on Israel’s ability to attack Iran as well as Tehran’s acquisition of long-range missiles. The Saudi Gazette reported the WikiLeaks story but without mentioning the kingdom. In Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, where the crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, was reported by US officials as having made bellicose remarks about Iran, the English-language paper The National did not report a local link to the WikiLeaks story.
In Israel, the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, claimed vindication for the view that Iran constitutes the biggest regional threat and that its development of a nuclear capacity must be halted.
Despite anxiety in the runup to publication that the US embassy cables could cast Israel in a negative light, he said: “Israel has not been damaged at all by the WikiLeaks publications. On the contrary, the documents showed support in many quarters for Israel’s assessments, especially on Iran.
“Our region has been hostage to a narrative that is the result of 60 years of propaganda, which paints Israel as the greatest threat,” Netanyahu added. “In reality leaders understand that that view is bankrupt. For the first time in history there is agreement that Iran is the threat.”
Many leaders and governments in the Middle East understood the threat, he said, though the documents revealed “a gap between what is said publicly and what is said behind closed doors”.
Several Israeli commentators suggested that US attempts to get the stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks back on track will be put on hold while the administration concentrates on a damage-limitation exercise.
Iranian media failed to widely report mention of a 2009 diplomatic cable reporting that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has terminal cancer.
But one website, alef.ir, which is a website affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, focused on suggestions of US links with Iranians protesting at the outcome of the 2009 presidential election. “The interesting parts of this document are those which show that the rioters in the aftermath of the election are linked to the American diplomatic service and they have been consulted by them,” it said.