"Global diplomatic crisis" sparked by cables: U.N. spied on; Saudis want US to attack Iran; British royalty misbehaves; military incompetence

The Guardian's coverage of the embassy cables is up: it reports that they've already sparked a global diplomatic crisis. Some more juicy revelations: • The U.S. spies on the United Nations, monitoring its telecommunications and IT systems. • Saudi Arabia is lobbying us to attack Iran. Israel is ready to go it alone in such an attack, too, presumably with tacit support from at some Arab states. • There is 'devastating criticism' of the British military's operations in Afghanistan, but Britain is helping keep Iran policy sane. • A British royal did something 'inappropriate.' • The U.S. government has 'serious political criticisms of' British Prime minister David Cameron, but the two governments are 'particularly intimate' in their dealings. • Hamed Karzai is motivated by paranoia, and by payment in cash. • Russia's government is somewhat in bed with organized crime. • ANC flunkies kept Nelson Mandela on a tight leash after his release. The Guardian also has the data for download so you may explore it yourselves. US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis [Graun]
Coverage of the leaked cables:

"9/11 of diplomacy" IDs Putin as Batman and Medvedev as Robin
Colonel Gadaffi uses Botox to maintain own youth, beauty
"Global diplomatic crisis" sparked. U.N. spied on; Saudis want Iran bombed
Korea unification plan; Illicit Pakistan nukes; U.S. warns Germany
Wikileaks.org "under attack"
Wikileaks under legal assault
US will press criminal charges against Manning



  1. Considering that the art of diplomacy is knowing what *not* to say, this kinda stuff blows a a big hole right through diplomacy.

  2. “Radical transparency”, what a wonderful thing :D if we can only get our hands around the economy in the same way this would be great. These things really makes me think its a great time to be alive.

    1. Inefficient markets are the most profitable. There’s nothing wrong with profits being made; layers of wholesale and retail markups keep people working. Transparency in finance would remove a lot of the middleman jobs.

      Most of this doesn’t sound too exciting and is what we expect the government to do in the normal course of the intelligence & diplomacy businesses.

      But I agree with you – This is a fascinating time to be alive.

  3. While it’s true some of this is really surprising, it’s also amusing how much of it is duh! material.

    Saudi Arabia sponsors anti-US terrorism – DUH.
    A British royal did something ‘inappropriate’ – DUH.
    The ANC had Mandela on a short leash after release – DUH.
    The Russian Mob owns highly placed politicians – DUH.
    Karzai has been corrupt since day one – DUH.
    The US has the UN wired – DUH.

    Some of it’s obvious in hindsight, too – Gee, the man who puts magnetic penises on statues is starry-eyed over the ultra-butch Putin!

    I must say I’m loving every minute of this. Bravo Wikileaks!!!

  4. Russia’s government is somewhat in bed with organized crime?

    No Way. No Freaking WAY. . . Re-check your sources on THAT vile calumny. I. . .I just can’t believe it.

  5. I wonder if the list of IP addresses that access the Google Docs cache of cables (from the Guardian) would be handy . . .

  6. I’m wondering about these ‘cables’. Are the world’s intelligence communities still sending telegrams? cablegrams? Messages over dedicated lines decoded by guys with cylinders to line up just so? Or are they just normal emails and letters, but called ‘cables’ because we’re talking about spies?

    1. Not in the leaks, but in my last issue of I think it was Fortune magazine, they confirmed with the Verizon CEO that iPhone would be on Verizon early 2011.

  7. As far as I can tell, the Guardian has only posted a *list* of the cables, not the cables themselves.

    As they put it, “we have opted not to publish [the contents of the cables] in full for obvious security reasons”.

    In other words, as far as I can tell, what they’ve posted is next to useless, except as an indication of how many cables there are, and who sent and received them.

    Unless I’m missing something, which is entirely possible.

    1. Possibly because the WikiLeaks crew are still trawling the documents for names so that a whole bunch of people aren’t put at risk?

  8. Information wants to be free.

    In other words, don’t do stupid things and then try to hide them. If enough people care, they can and will find out.

  9. Progressives wax on how diplomacy is morally superior to the bomb first; talk later shenanigans of the Bush Administration. Now they’re smirking because diplomatic communications are made public? Fucking. Stupid. Wankers.

    1. Separating. your. words. with. periods. doesn’t. make. them. more. dramatic.
      Also, your statement prior is awful close to a non-sequitur.

    2. Maybe if everyone was more honest and properly diplomatic instead of the apparent covert political bitch-fest that seems to be going on, there would be no need for this.

    3. Have you actually read any of the communications you’re referring to, or given your statement even the slightest bit of thought? The communications about bombing Iran for example are hardly “diplomacy”, more like “how can we get away with bombing those bastards”. And wire-tapping the U.N., which subverts the best hope for global diplomacy we have? That’s not diplomacy, unless you mean the Douglas Adams definition:

      “Diplomacy: I’m going to kill my brother and then kill you on the pretense that your brother did it.”

  10. It’s too bad the tables don’t contain anything more substantive than subject lines and recipients. It’s not really all that useful with out the actual communiques, and so far, it looks like the body of these cables is mostly being disseminated by blurb. I think I’d rather take the time to actually read through some of these for myself, rather than just getting the gist of what they are alleged to contain.

  11. If our governments are so keen to see us naked that they force us to submit to a full body xray scan every time we travel, then they can themselves expect to be exposed to scrutiny. Every argument that applies to one issue applies to the other. What have you got to hide?

  12. sdmikev: It’s perfectly lucid. And you mean “awfully” close.

    The .invalid: Not sure what you mean by “properly” diplomatic. I define diplomacy as a means for nations to float ideas, gain confidences and build relationships and alliances under the radar, behind the scenes and beyond public statements. I don’t expect the topics and tactics to be pretty. I do expect them to be confidential.

    wrybread: Yes, read them. To me, the U.N. is not, has not and likely won’t be the best hope for global diplomacy. It’s more like the TSA: diplomacy theater. But it’s a nice thought.

    1. No, it’s not lucid at all because you’re making a fairly blanket statement with no context.
      This is a lot more complex than just “shoot first bad, diplomacy good”.

    2. “The UN is more like the TSA: diplomacy theater.”

      Well, after the Bush administration’s war on the U.N., its a wonder it still exists at all. Its no wonder many people are brainwashed into thinking exactly what you just said.

      Bush Co. had to get rid of the U.N. as a check on their authority, and they did it in the run-up to the Iraq war. And interestingly, they planned it even before taking office. If you haven’t read the essay “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (PDF link), written by the Project for the New American Century, which is all the NeoCons, you might consider it. So much of the destruction perpetrated during Bush’s presidency was telegraphed in that document by the authors, which include Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Liby.

      1. Perhaps Bush Co is on your cut/paste button, but if you believe wiretapping the U.N. “subverts the best hope for global diplomacy”, you should take that up with Hillary Clinton and her boss.

  13. Boring Sydney. Really boring. Releasing pedantic information about incidents and people that were documented elsewhere and yawned at by most everyone must be worth risking your life over for some reason. It’s not like Wikileaks is unveiling another Abu Ghraib, Iran Contra, CIA drug running, or anything of real monumental news.

    Sorry but the Wikileaks hype machine has not lived up to what they are delivering. Is this like the most elaborate troll in the world or what?

  14. I just sort of ASSUMED all this was going on. Right down to a British royal doing something inappropriate.

    1. I just wonder if the royal thing is hiding something bigger. I mean, I can’t see Prince Philip or Harry’s antics as requiring much diplomatic thought, especially not under strict secrecy conditions. Fuck if I know what it could be, maybe Wills has an underage toyboy or something.

    2. No kidding… Doesn’t everything on this list make you feel like you’re face to face with something you’ve been in denial about?

  15. Soooo… the take-away is that the messages that governments send each other look like a teen’s Facebook page?

  16. You know, I fully support the philosophy behind what WikiLeaks does.


    What bothers me is that these leaks are consistently oriented around US information. We don’t see earth-shattering disclosures of intel from the UK, or Germany, or Russia, China, Korea, Japan, India. It is seemingly either ALWAYS or PRIMARILY the US that is the target of the leaks.

    This suggests a serious bias on Assange’s part — it seems clear that his agenda is specifically to release secret US material rather than a universal goal to make information free.

    1. People say this a lot, but rarely bother to explain why that bias would be such a bad thing. The US is an influential country, and one the rest of us would like to see kept as accountable as possible.

  17. The UK really needs to go and find itself a new partner — every new revelation from the US’ trove of diplomatic ‘secrets’ makes it look more & more like an abused and unappreciated spouse.

  18. Yes, we all “knew” a lot of these things, but it’s one thing for concerned citizens to be generally aware of corruption and quite another for credible documents explicitly verifying these assumptions to be made available in such numbers.

    We’re going to need a lot of hot dogs for all relish with which people are rubbing their hands together thanks to this leak.

  19. Most of this doesn’t sound too exciting and is what we expect the government to do in the normal course of the intelligence & diplomacy businesses.

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