- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2010

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

That leaked cable traffic between U.S. embassies in the Middle East and the government in Washington, which has officials in a dozen capitals all atwitter, so far only confirms what everyone who reads newspapers already knows:

There’s no shortage of dangerously pious nonsense.

So far we’ve seen and heard nothing explode, except for a few soggy firecrackers, like rude noises in a church pew. A few editors, notably at the New York Times, are posing as heroes of the free world, but it’s only a pose. The leaker, Julian Assange, an Australian, is painted as James Bond, but he’s more like - in the apt description of one anonymous Internet blogger - “a little boy playing at being a mystery hero, and like so many of the childish left, he is utterly bewitched by his sense of self-importance.”

Nevertheless, gossip is fun, which is why it’s the second-most-popular naughty pastime. So far we’ve learned that unnamed diplomats in Moscow think that President Dmitry Medvedev plays “Robin” to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “Batman”; that someone in the Seoul embassy thinks Kim Jong-il is a “flabby old chap” who suffered “physical and psychological trauma” as a result of a stroke; that someone in the Paris embassy noticed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has “a thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style”; that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi likes girls, the younger and shapelier the better and that the charge d’affaires at the embassy in Rome thinks he’s “feckless and vain”; that American diplomats in Kabul think President Hamid Karzai is weak and frightened; that his own aides think President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is “a crazy old man,” and that an adviser to Sultan Qaboos of Oman thinks Moammar Gadhafi of Libya is “just strange.”

Well, duh. Stop the press.

The more serious stuff so far only confirms what we long ago figured out, that the saner Muslims in the Middle East are as terrified of the Iranian nuclear program as we are and want somebody, even if it has to be Christians and Jews, to do something about it. According to American diplomats, governments in Jordan and Bahrain openly urge the Iranians be “stopped” by any means necessary. Officials in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates agree with George W. Bush’s description of Iran as “evil,” a description widely mocked in the salons of the Upper East Side and on the Op-Ed pages of newspapers admired on the Upper East Side.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned in February, according to the leaked cable traffic, that if the diplomats fail, there’s a “risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.” The Israeli intelligence chief warned last year, in a classic exercise of understatement, that “Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised as the United States [were] on 11 September 2001.” Asked to respond, a spokesman at the State Department said it was U.S. policy not to comment on “materials,” including classified documents, which may have leaked. Translation: “Sounds about right.”

Duh, again. Nevertheless, it’s reassuring, even if reassurance from stolen goods, that the gatekeepers aren’t as sleepy at the switch as they often appear to be. The revelations that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is particularly terrified of the poisonous nut in Iran are particularly reassuring. He wants the United States to destroy the Iranian nuclear sites, which makes you wonder why Saudi Arabia has been buying up all the planes and bombs it can persuade Washington to sell. We have the word of the Saudi ambassador to Washington that the king has exhorted the U.S. government to “cut off the head of the snake.” We now have on the record that the Israeli defense minister estimated in June 2009 that “between six and 18 months from now stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” After that, “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage.” That estimate puts the closing of the window at just about New Year’s Eve.

None of these disclosures will prevent ranting and railing in the usual places, including Saudi Arabia, and on the editorial pages of the New York Times, when the Israelis do for the rest of the world what the rest of the world agrees must be done. But we can be sure that somewhere deep in the royal palace the king will be lifting a glass, maybe filled with champagne, in salute to the Jews.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.