The reaction in some quarters to the Wiki-Leaks release of classified State Department cables has been a resounding “told you so.” The most important expose of this sordid ordeal is the Obama administration’s persistent failure to deal with the critical issues the cables describe.
Many of the disclosures aren’t surprising to those who have been paying attention. It’s widely known that Saudi Arabian sources are al Qaeda’s primary financial backers. It’s well-documented that Russia, China and North Korea facilitate Iran’s missile programs and development of weapons of mass destruction. It’s no surprise that Sunni Arab states would be delighted if the United States and Israel took care of the growing Iranian threat. Yesterday’s car-bombing of two Iranian nuclear scientists suggests that process may already be under way.
Up to now, some of these issues were debatable, even controversial. The matters were downplayed or denied by a significant segment of the policy community, mostly because implications were too difficult to contemplate. Our government was not wont to discuss such topics publicly, preferring to pursue quiet solutions behind the scenes. Too much transparency was deemed damaging to the diplomatic process.
The WikiLeaks cables underscore the failure of that mindset. The countries supporting Iran’s nuclear program and missile buildup haven’t been held accountable for contributing to this growing threat to world peace. China allows missile and chemical-weapon-component shipments to pass from North Korea to Iran; Russia downplays the impact of its advanced missile technology going to Tehran. WikiLeaked documents reiterate the extent to which North Korea is a major source of nuclear- and missile-technology proliferation, but the United States has been unable to turn off the spigot.
The threat posed by Iran clearly is greater than Obama administration rhetoric would suggest. Sunni Arab leaders are portrayed making warlike suggestions in private that they wouldn’t think of uttering publicly. They seem preoccupied with fear of Iranian hegemony in the region, and for good reason; it’s Tehran’s preoccupation as well. There is little if any mention of the Palestinian issue in high-level meetings with regional leaders unless U.S. officials raise it, which suggests the Obama administration’s fixation on solving that particular problem - or worse, linking it to the Iran issue - is misguided.
Saudi funding links to al Qaeda go back to the group’s inception in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden has talked openly about overthrowing the monarchy and destabilizing the kingdom as some of the terror group’s central objectives. It begs the question why America hasn’t found a means to persuade the Saudis to come down hard on their wealthy brethren who are underwriting global terror. The prevailing attitude seems to be that al Qaeda isn’t a major problem so long as the funds pay for terror outside the desert kingdom. For terrorists who might wind up on the Arabian Peninsula, King Abdullah helpfully suggested they be tagged with transponders to be tracked in the same way he does his horses and falcons. If only Saudi terror financing could be LoJacked in the same way.
If nothing else, the WikiLeaks revelations should help sharpen the public debate on national security policy. The world is a more dangerous, less forgiving place than the Obama administration would have us believe - and that’s no secret.