WikiLeaks: Clear Messages from Turkey, Syria and China Opposing Military Action Against Iran

Iran hawks have been having a feeding frenzy with the WikiLeaks revelations that Arab leaders have made statements which could be interpreted as endorsing a military strike on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities. As discussed by Jim and Ali in their article yesterday, Arab leaders are clearly concerned about a nuclear weapons possessing Iran. But, other than infusing their statements of concern with some vivid hyperbole, these leaders don’t come across as explicitly endorsing U.S. or Israeli military action against Iran.

A closer reading of the WikiLeaks finds very clear and succinct statements from Arab, Turkish and Chinese diplomats and leaders about the dangers of a military strike on Iran.

A January 26, 2010 cable, titled “SECRETARY GATES’ TURKEY BILATERAL VISIT,” reads:

[Turkish civilian and military officials] believe international pressure against Iran only helps to strengthen Ahmadinejad and the hard-liners.

The cable also indicated that Turkey had been supportive of efforts to broker a fuel swap deal with the P5+1.

It reads:

Turkey did press Iran (albeit quietly) to accept the P5 plus 1 Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) offer and FM Davutoglu had been personally engaged in trying to rescue the TRR deal, which would have removed a significant portion of Iran’s lowly-enriched uranium stockpile.

A January 4, 2010 cable, which summarized a congressional delegation’s meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, reads:

Asad said he believed Iran was not interested in pursuing a nuclear weapon, but warned that an Israeli
military strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would fail to disable the program and would only increase Iran’s determination.

And, in a summary of a December 9, 2009 meeting between Under Secretary of State William Burns and Director of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee International Liaison Department (CCID) Wang Jiarui, the Chinese position on a U.S. or Israeli military strike was made clear.

Wang acknowledged that there was a potential for an Israeli military strike were the situation not handled properly, which was of grave concern to China, but insisted that harsh actions were not yet warranted. Recent U.S. experience with a military option, he said, should teach some lessons, and the outcome of tougher sanctions was also unpredictable.


Wang noted that in his several recent visits to Iran anti-American sentiment was strong, everywhere, and palpable, which, he said, was not conducive to resolving the issue.

There’s no shortage of reports from Israel which indicate Israeli officials are constantly reminding U.S. diplomats that the military options is “on the table.” And, as hawks have been quick to point out, there’s plenty of evidence that Arab states are concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Missing is a clear endorsement of the “military option” from other important U.S. allies. Indeed, U.S. relations with Turkey, Syria and China have been strained over Iran. But it’s worth noting that diplomats and leaders from these countries are clearly opposed to a military strike on Iran. Unlike the comments from Arab leaders which supposedly endorse such an attack, the statements opposing military action are clear and not open to multiple interpretations.

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.



  1. Today’s Zaman, the Turkish English-language paper has been running some good articles from the Turkish perspective. Seems like Israel’s efforts to push their line are not always brilliant, and Israel tends to sound like the ultimate whiner. Example: “(Israel) said that if Europe had more warmly embraced Turkey, then the Turks would not be taking steps to earn approval in the Arab and Muslim world at the expense of Israel. The French “begged to differ”.” Of course, the “military option”, like the sin that dare not speak its name, always hangs as background.

  2. Worth noting, yes. Important to provide a balanced picture.

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