Monday 18 December 2017

Wikileaks sparks diplomatic crisis with new revelations

Christopher Hope in London

THE king of Saudi Arabia privately urged the US to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear weapons programme, according to diplomatic cables leaked by a website last night.

The first tranche of more than 250,000 classified cables released by the Wikileaks site says American officials were also told to spy on the UN's leadership and get biometric information on its secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

The cables detail claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family and criticism of Britain's military operations in Afghanistan, and David Cameron.

They include requests for "specific intelligence" about British MPs. The communiques threatened a global diplomatic crisis and put America's relations with Europe and the Middle East under a cloud.

The leaked memos also disclose how American diplomats compared Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Adolf Hitler and labelled France's President Nicolas Sarkozy as the "emperor with no clothes".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was depicted as "risk aversive", Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was an "alpha dog" and Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai was "driven by paranoia".

The unguarded comments were contained in the classified cables from US embassies, details of which were published by several newspapers on the internet last night. Some were sent as recently as last February.

The first package of memos published by 'The Guardian', the 'New York Times' and Germany's 'Der Spiegel' failed to name the British royal or the behaviour. The cables are being released over the next fortnight, rather than all at once, putting America's foreign relations under unprecedented pressure.

Exhorted

One of the most damaging allegations was that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah repeatedly urged America to attack Iran. The Saudi leader was recorded as having "frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to end its nuclear weapons programme".

The leak said he told the Americans to "cut off the head of the snake" at a meeting in 2008. The leaks also disclose how leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as "evil" and a power that "is going to take us to war".

The papers also claimed the US Government was running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at Mr Ban and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK. They alleged that the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called for biometric information on the UN secretary general.

A classified directive was issued to US diplomats under the name of the secretary of state in July last year, asking for forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.

The Wikileaks website suffered a 'cyber attack' hours before the release of the documents. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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