One of the few good things to come from the despicable WikiLeaks of U.S. diplomatic cables is that they demonstrate that Muslim leaders who are closest to the Iranian regime - and who know it best - are emphatic that Iran is an aggressive and ongoing state sponsor of terrorism, that it must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons capability and that it cannot be trusted.
Those who have been skeptical of Western claims on these matters should heed the warnings of Arab leaders with regard to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tells us that the Iranians are “sponsors of terrorism.” And Kuwait’s military intelligence chief told U.S. Gen. David H. Petraeus that Iran was supporting extremist groups in Yemen.
As to the threat of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, we now know that Jordanian officials have called for the Iranian nuclear program to be stopped by any means necessary. And officials in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have referred to the Iranian regime as “evil” and an “existential threat.” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi warned the United States and the world against appeasing the Iranian regime, going so far as to declare that “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged the United States to attack the Iranian regime to destroy its nuclear program. According to one cable, King Abdullah “frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program.” The Saudi ambassador to Washington, reporting on a 2008 meeting between King Abdullah and Gen. Petraeus, tells American officials that King Abdullah “told you to cut off the head of the snake.”
It is instructive to learn what Muslim leaders think of Iran as a negotiating parter. Egypt’s Mr. Mubarak cautioned the United States to be wary of what Iranian leaders say because “they are big, fat liars.” Saudi King Abdullah told a U.S. diplomat: “The bottom line is that [the Iranians] cannot be trusted.” Foreign Policy magazine reports: “In a telling exchange at the end of his meeting with the Emir, the Qatari ruler gave [Sen. John] Kerry some advice for dealing with the Iranian government. ‘The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100,’ the cable said.”
It is still possible to build a bipartisan, international strategy to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Developing and implementing that strategy requires, first and foremost, that American leaders discard their preconceptions and confront reality, to wit:
The vast majority of Americans want a world where political and economic freedom, human rights and cultural and social tolerance are the norm.
Most of the other nations in the world can and should be viewed as partners in advancing these goals - provided that they see consistent, common-sense and bipartisan leadership from the United States.
At the same time, there are movements and governments that actively don’t want enlightened international relations. Their vision of the future is a world where they oppress other people, and they understand, correctly, that achieving that vision brings them into conflict with the United States and its international partners.
These forces are attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction because they understand that those weapons empower them to accomplish their goals. No matter what they say, they will not give up those attempts unless they believe the costs of pursuing them outweigh the substantial leverage the weapons give them.
Iran is the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism. As the leaked cables show, it is not trusted by any of its neighbors, regardless of their religion or form of government. As North Korea demonstrates, rogue regimes become more aggressive when they acquire nuclear weapons. Iran will be much worse than North Korea if it is so empowered. The threat still can be deterred, but the world is running out of time and nothing will be accomplished by wishful thinking about the nature of the Iranian regime.
Jim Talent, a former Republican senator from Missouri, is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.