Chas Freeman: Huge Gap Between Israeli and Arab Positions on Iran

Chas Freeman, who served as assistant secretary of defense from 1993 to 1994 and ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, had a letter in Saturday’s New York Times which explains why the WikiLeaks cables are good for Tehran and bad for the U.S.’s efforts to form an alliance against Tehran.

Freeman writes:

While some hard-line analysts and pundits are relieved to find the Arabs “on our side” and feel that this disclosure will help us form a stronger alliance against Tehran, it’s more likely that the leaks will simply raise Iran’s prestige by adding to the persistent overestimation of its influence and abilities.

Freeman also refutes the argument that Israel and Arab leaders—when behind closed doors—share the same thinking on how to deal with Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Israel has implied that it is willing to go it alone in attacking Iran, an action that would require the United States to join it after Iran retaliates.

Freeman says the positions taken by Arab leaders are different.

What comes through loud and clear in these cables is a familiar Gulf Arab refrain: “We have a problem we don’t know how to deal with. You Americans must solve it for us. Do what you think best. We’ll look the other way if necessary.”


The Gulf Arabs want to forestall Iranian nuclear ambitions, but they are willing to defer to American judgment about how best to achieve that, and they certainly don’t want it to result in a war in their own neighborhood. Clearly, this is a very different position from the one held by Mr. Netanyahu.

He concludes:

In the end, contrary to the hopes and fears of some, the leaks do not make war with Iran more likely or demonstrate a basis for Arab-Israeli solidarity against Tehran. Mr. Assange’s grand accomplishment will be nothing more than to make it far harder for American diplomats to get candid answers from their Gulf Arab and Israeli counterparts.

The Middle East is a place where yes means maybe, maybe means no, no is never heard (except in Israel), and a plea for a foreign solution to regional problems is a cop-out, not a serious request for action. It is where hypocrisy first gained a bad name. WikiLeaks has hurt America without changing that.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.


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