Damning Wikileaks secrets threaten Pak-Saudi relations
WASHINGTON: Relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, two of the most important Islamic countries, appeared headed towards a serious crisis as secret cables unveiled by Wikileaks on Sunday quoted Saudi King Abdullah calling President Asif Ali Zardari as “the greatest obstacle to Pakistan’s progress”.
As part of millions of documents dumped on the Internet, Wikileaks put one cable, which gave details of what King Abdullah really thought about President Zardari.Talking to an Iraqi official about the Iraqi PM Nuri Al-Maliki, King Abdullah said: “You and Iraq are in my heart, but that man is not.”
“That man” was Asif Zardari. The king called the Pakistani president as “the greatest obstacle to that country’s progress. “When the head is rotten,” he said, “it affects the whole body.”The scathing remarks by the Saudi King explain why relations between Pakistan and the Saudi kingdom have remained cool and almost frozen during the current rule of the PPP.
The reported feelings of the Saudi King about Zardari also explain, to some extent, why a Saudi member of the Royal family sent a scathing letter about corruption in the Pakistani Haj operations.
President Zardari has not yet paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia on a Saudi invitation and the only visit he made was to perform Umra in which he also called on the Saudi King although he has visited so many other countries and quietly pays private visits to the UAE during weekends.
The leaked cables also show that Pakistan had refused to allow the US to remove enriched Uranium from a research reactor. The documents revealed that since 2007, the US had been pressurising Pakistan to remove the Uranium through a highly secret effort, which had not been successful.
In May 2009, US Ambassador Anne W Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “If the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”
The cables revealed that Obama administration was trying to sort out its relations with Pakistan, which were marred by lack of trust. Obama is trying to figure out whether Pakistan was a trusted partner in the war on terror and against al-Qaeda. A cable shows the US was assessing whether a waiting rickshaw driver in Lahore was looking for passengers or conducting surveillance of the road to the American Consulate.
Agencies add: Earlier, WikiLeaks unleashed a torrent of more than a quarter million confidential US cables detailing a wide array of potentially explosive diplomatic episodes, the New York Times said.
It shows that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged the US to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme. The memo showed that the king told the United States to “cut off the head of the snake,” and said that working with Washington to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq was “a strategic priority for the king and his government.”
The newspaper reported details of a tense standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel, plans to reunite the Korean peninsula after the North’s eventual collapse, bazaar-like bargaining over the repatriation of Guantanamo Bay detainees and a Chinese government bid to hack into Google.
The cables detail fresh suspicions about Afghan corruption, Saudi donors financing al-Qaeda, and the US failure to prevent Syria from providing a massive stockpile of weapons to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon since 2006.
US State Department documents released by WikiLeaks provided candid views of foreign leaders and sensitive information on terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the New York Times reported.
The documents show Saudi donors remain chief financiers of militant groups like al Qaeda and that Chinese government operatives have waged a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage targeting the United States and its allies, according to a review of the WikiLeaks documents published in the Times.
The WikiLeaks documents also show US Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes any military strike on Iran would only delay its pursuit of a nuclear weapon by one to three years, the Times reported on its website on Sunday.
The Pentagon immediately condemned WikiLeaks’ “reckless” dump of classified State Department documents and said it was taking steps to bolster security of the US military networks.
“The (Defense) Department has undertaken a series of actions to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The White House angrily attacked the release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks as a “reckless and dangerous action” that puts lives at risk around the world.
“To be clear – such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
President Barack Obama “supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal,” he said.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information,” he added.
The White House said the leak of the diplomatic cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders and may put at risk the lives of named individuals living “under oppressive regimes.”
The pending documents release had been widely reported for more than a week and expected on Sunday.
The US government, which was informed in advance of the contents, has contacted governments around the world, including in Russia, Europe and the Middle East, to try to limit any damage. Sources familiar with the documents say they include corruption allegations against foreign leaders and governments.
WikiLeaks had reported earlier on Sunday that its website was under attack, but said later that media outlets would publish some of the classified documents it had released even if the group’s website crashed.
“El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT will publish many US embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down,” the website said in a Twitter posting an hour after it tweeted that its site was under attack.
The State Department had warned WikiLeaks that the expected release would endanger countless lives, jeopardize American military operations and hurt international cooperation on global security issues.
The department’s top lawyer urged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a letter on Saturday to keep classified documents off the website, remove records of them from its database and return any material to the US government.
Source: The News