As Stalin said, open diplomacy an impossibility
Historians will face an information famine in future following the Wikileaks revelations, writes Ivor Roberts
A rich banquet, say some of the Wikileaks saga; a bonanza for historians and/or the death of diplomacy, say others. All these are half-truths. And none really distinguishes between the process of what has happened and the content. I don't have a problem with the revelation of material that causes mere embarrassment: I've been the object of it myself, shortly after I left Ireland for Italy, when my description of George W Bush as "al-Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant" was leaked and caused worldwide ripples. A cartoon showing Osama bin Laden putting up an election poster of George W appeared on the front page of the International Herald Tribune.
But there was no diplomatic fall-out beyond a certain stiffness in relations between myself and my US colleague in Rome (an almost fanatical Bush supporter who believed Bush should be succeeded by Dick Cheney).
But when Wikileaks reveals that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia believes the Iranian snake should be decapitated, they are pouring oil on an already very inflamed part of the world. "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you," goes the old joke. And in the Middle East, the Iranian government, which already believes there is a Mossad agent behind every rock, will now see their Arab neighbours as treacherously advocating if not effecting regime change in Tehran and as determined as the US or Israel to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian reaction will probably be to accelerate its nuclear programme, not dismantle it. With that, the odds on a military attack on Iran from the US or its proxy Israel before the end of 2011 must be shortening. And then what? A conflagration which could spread some way beyond the original field of conflict.