Cables Reveal: Iran, N. Korea Greater Threat to World Peace
Diplomatic Cables Based on U.S. Intelligence Reports -- Published by Whistleblower Web Site WikiLeaks -- Reveal North Koreans Sold 19 Nuclear-Capable IRBM Missiles to Iran Capable of Striking Targets Throughout Europe and in Russia; Documents Show Arab States Called for Attack on Iran's Nuke Facilities -- China Admits It's Fed Up With North Korea's Belligerence, Wants Peninsula Reunified Under Seoul's Control
(Posted 5:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, November 30, 2010)
(Updated 11:15 a.m. EST Tuesday, November 30, 2010)
By SKEETER SANDERS
Memo to Representative Peter King (R-New York):
Shut the hell up!
The ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee -- who will take over as chairman in January -- called on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks, under the Espionage Act and for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to designate the site "a foreign terrorist organization,' in reaction to its posting on Sunday of more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
"This is extremely damaging to U.S. troops, U.S. interests and U.S. intelligence," King told Fox News on Monday. "They [WikiLeaks] are engaged in terrorist activity. What they're doing is clearly aiding and abetting terrorist groups. Either we're serious about this or we're not," adding that putting the Web site on the State Department's list of known foreign terrorist organizations would enable the U.S. to shut down WikiLeaks by seizing its assets and to stop other entities -- including news media outlets -- from cooperating with it.
Excuse us, Congressman King, but since when is it "aiding and abetting terrorist groups" to expose the fact that Iran and North Korea pose a dangerous threat to world peace -- a threat much more dangerous than previously thought -- to the point that even China is reportedly "fed up" with North Korea's belligerence?
CHINA CONFIRMS IT WANTS KOREAN PENINSULA REUNIFIED UNDER SEOUL'S CONTROL, ADMITS 'FRUSTRATION' WITH PYONGYANG
LONDON -- China supports the "independent and peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula" and cannot afford to give the North Korean regime the impression it has a blank check to act any way it wants, Chinese officials based in Europe confirmed today (Tuesday).
The officials, who asked not to be identified, spoke a day after The Guardian revealed that senior figures in Beijing, exasperated with North Korea behaving like a "spoiled child," had told their South Korean counterparts that China was leaning towards acceptance of reunification under Seoul's control.
One Chinese official said today reunification was not going to happen overnight and China's first priority was to calm down the situation, restart a dialogue, and maintain stability in the region. But Beijing had always backed peaceful reunification as a longer term goal.
The officials admitted to a sense of frustration in Beijing over North Korea's recent actions, including its nuclear and missile tests – which China opposed – and last week's lethal artillery bombardment of a South Korean island.
Instead of prosecuting Assange and attempting to shut down WikiLeaks -- which, by the way, would clearly violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantees under the First Amendment of a free and unfettered news and information media -- WikiLeaks should be honored for performing, for once, a vital public service by alerting the world to the mounting threat to world peace and stability posed by Tehran and Pyongyang -- a danger that has been building since 2003 and is now approaching a dangerous flashpoint on the Korean Peninsula.
The whistleblower site made public what the State Department should have told the world months ago: That North Korea sold to Iran 19 intermediate-range R-27 ballistic missiles -- missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads and, when fired from Iran, could strike cities throughout Europe.
Even the Russian capital Moscow could potentially be threatened by nuclear-armed Iranian IRBMs, the U.S. diplomatic cables show, based on intelligence reports. That revelation comes just four months after relations between Russia and Iran began to deteriorate over Iran's nuclear program.
MISSILE THREAT TO EUROPE, RUSSIA DETAILED IN U.S. MEETINGS WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIALS
According to the cables obtained by WikiLeaks -- accounts of which were published Sunday by The New York Times -- top Russian officials were alerted to the Iranian missile threat in February during a meeting in Moscow with a U.S. delegation led by Vann Van Diepen, a top official of the State Department’s nuclear nonproliferation division.
Van Diepen, while working in his previous capacity as a national intelligence officer, "played a crucial role in the 2007 assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity," according to the Times account of the cables.
Iran's acquisition of the North Korean-built R-27 missiles -- which, ironically, were originally designed by the Russians during the Soviet era -- gives Tehran the capability of striking cities throughout Europe and that even Moscow lies within the missiles' striking range, the cables show.
The U.S. delegation warned their Russian counterparts that the missiles, which have an advanced propulsion system that the North Koreans developed, would bring Iran closer to developing its own arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at a time when the two former Cold War adversaries reached a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) -- yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate -- aimed at further reducing the U.S. and Russia's ICBM stockpiles.
CABLES REVEAL GROWING WORLDWIDE ALARM OVER IRANIAN NUKE PROGRAMS
The nuclear development program of Iran been the source of increasing alarm by the United States for the past half-decade. Now, it appears, the alarm has spread worldwide -- nowhere more so than in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is so worried about Iran's nuclear program that he repeatedly called on the U.S. to launch a pre-emptive strike and destroy the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities -- as the Israelis did to Iraq's nuclear plant in a 1981 air strike, according to an account of the cables published Sunday by Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
And Saudi Arabia isn't alone, according to the cables. They reveal that Arab governments are just as suspicious as the U.S., Israel and the European Union are that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. One cable recorded King Abdullah as having "frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program."
According to Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the king, in an April 2008 meeting in Riyadh with General David Petraeus, then the commander of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, told him to "cut off the head of the snake," referring to Iran's nuclear program, the Guardian reported in its account of the cables.
ARAB COUNTRIES DEMAND ACTION AGAINST IRAN'S NUKE FACILITIES, CABLES SAY
Other Arab countries, notably Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, referred to Iran as "evil", an "existential threat" and a power that "is going to take us to war," according to the cables. Jordan and Bahrain have even gone so far as to openly demand that Iran's nuclear program "be stopped by any means necessary" -- including military action.
The Arab countries' demand for action against Iran marks a dramatic departure from widely-held perceptions that to attack Iran's nuclear facilities would have triggered a much wider war in the Middle East, with Tehran likely to retaliate with a massive missile strike against Israel.
For its part, Israel let it be known to American officials in June 2009 that it was prepared, if necessary, to "go it alone" and attack Iran's nuclear facilities unilaterally, according to the Guardian account of the cables. They quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying that there was a window of "between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable," beyond which any military action "would result in unacceptable collateral damage."
According to Barak's timetable, that window will close at the end of this year.
Iran lashed out at the WikiLeaks disclosures Monday, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing the leaks as a "worthless" psychological warfare campaign by the U.S. against his country. "We don't think this information was leaked," Ahmadinejad said during a televised news conference in Tehran. "We think it was organized to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals."
Ahmadinejad insisted to reporters that Arab nations' demand for action against Iran's nuclear program would have no impact on his country's relations with them. "We are friends with the regional countries and mischievous acts will not affect relations," he said.
CABLES REVEAL CHINA 'FED UP' WITH 'SPOILED CHILD' NORTH KOREA'S BELLIGERENCE
Disclosure of North Korea's sale of the R-27 missiles to Iran could not have come at a more sensitive time, as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached a crisis stage after North Korea launched an artillery barrage on a South Korean island, killing four South Korean civilians and bringing the peninsula to the brink of war.
Among a second cache of U.S. diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks on Monday include a bombshell revelation that China, North Korea's longtime ally, is "fed up" with the increasingly belligerent regime in Pyongyang, with senior Chinese officials quoted as derisively branding North Korea "a spoiled child."
While Beijing publicly has refused to condemn Pyongyang for its November 23 attack on the South Korean island of Yeongyeong and has called for a resumption of the six-party nuclear talks, the cables reveal China's mounting private frustration with North Korea in the four years since Pyongyang's provocative underground nuclear tests and test firings of its long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missiles.
In a February 17 cable, South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister, Chun Yung-woo, told Kathleen Stephens, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, that senior Chinese officials told him that Beijing "is fed up with the North Korean regime's behavior and would not oppose" the unification of the Korean peninsula under South Korean control.
S. KOREAN OFFICIAL; N. KOREA 'ALREADY COLLAPSING'
Chun, who heads the South Korean delegation to the six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear program, said China "would not be able to stop North Korea's collapse" following the death of its ailing, 68-year-old dictator, Kim Jong-il, according to the cable. The North, Chun said, "had already collapsed economically and would collapse politically [within] two to three years" after Kim's death -- despite Pyongyang's apparent grooming of the dictator's 27-yer-old son, Kim Jong-un, to take over.
Chun dismissed South Korean media reports that Chinese companies had agreed to pump $10 billion into the North's economy, the cable said. "Beijing had 'no will' to use its modest economic leverage to force a change in Pyongyang's policies," Chun said.
In a sign of the deteriorating relations between Beijing and Pyongyang, the cable quotes Chun as saying that North Korea has a low regard for Wu Dawei, China's deputy foreign minister and chief representative at the six-party nuclear talks, with the North Koreans characterizing him as "the most incompetent official in China."
For his part, Wu is quoted in an April 2009 cable as telling U.S. officials that Pyongyang was behaving like "a spoiled child" to get Washington's attention by carrying out its missile tests -- which severely jangled nerves in Japan, where the government in Tokyo regarded the tests as a direct threat to Japan's national security.
Another sign of tension between the two countries has been a series of violent incidents along the Chinese-North Korean border -- the most highly publicized of which was the deadly shooting in July by North Korean border guards of three Chinese citizens and the wounding of a fourth.
The four Chinese were shot on the North Korean side of the border, after North Korean guards suspected them of "crossing the border for trade activities," according to Qin Gang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry. Beijing filed a formal diplomatic protest to Pyongyang over the incident.
WHY WIKILEAKS: LACK OF FEDERAL 'SHIELD LAW' TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS' SOURCES
Congressman King and other politicians, in their condemnation of WikiLeaks, have forgotten the reason why WikiLeaks came into being in the first place: The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 to review federal court rulings ordering two investigative reporters to reveal their confidential sources.
It has been a longstanding practice of investigative journalists uncovering corruption in and wrongdoing by the government and private entities to keep the identities of confidential sources secret to protect them from retaliation for their disclosures. The Valerie Plame affair undermined that practice, prompting many sources to remain silent, out of fear of discovery and retribution.
Courts ordered then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and then-Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to reveal their sources for information about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame in apparent retaliation for the public challenge by her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, to the credibility of the Bush administration's claim of an alleged Iraqi stockpile of weapons of mass destruction as the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003.
WIKILEAKS 'CREATED TO PROTECT WHISTLEBLOWERS'
As Peter Scheer, a journalist and practicing attorney who is also executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, writes in a November 16 blog posting on the coalition's Web site, "WikiLeaks emerged as a technological solution to this hole in the fabric of legal rules implementing the First Amendment’s free press and free speech guarantees."
WikiLeaks is designed "to foil subpoenas or other assertions of judicial power," Scheer wrote. "Because the Web site is not tied to any single real-world venue and apparently was built with layers of redundancy, court injunctions issued against WikiLeaks, whether directed to its Internet service providers (ISPs), its lawyers or other entities, are unlikely to disable it."
More important, Scheer wrote, "WikiLeaks claims to use technology that erases the fingerprints of sources, rendering leaked documents untraceable. By contrast, the same documents leaked to a newspaper, such as The Washington Post, whether by means of e-mail, 'cloud'-based Internet services or other electronic communications, would be vulnerable to interception and tracing.
"Even if the documents, instead, were hand-delivered to the Post, its reporter could be subpoenaed and forced to testify," Scheer added.
It is a both a tragedy and a disgrace that it took a Web site such as WikiLeaks to alert the world to the dangers to world peace and security that Iran and North Korea pose -- a job that the mainstream media should have done but has been intimidated by the court rulings in the Plame case into not doing.
WikiLeaks should not be prosecuted for that. It should instead be given a great deal of thanks for performing a vitally needed public service.
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Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.