Cable Gate Day Nine

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Burma’s military junta considered making a $1bn (£634m) bid to buy Manchester United around the time the regime faced UN censure over its slow response to cyclone Nargis in 2008. Than Shwe, commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces and United fan, was urged to mount a takeover bid by his grandson.

Nato has drawn up a secret military plan to defend Poland and the Baltic states from Russia.

• The US privately lobbied to block an Iranian scientist’s appointment to a key position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

• Intelligence co-operation has improved so much that the US now considers Algeria the key player in the fight against al-Qaida in the Maghreb region.

• US embassy cables revealed America’s ongoing battle to stem the flow of arms from eastern Europe to the Middle East.

Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel focuses on a “non-paper” describing US attempts to co-opt Riyadh’s assistance in its quest to cut off the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia to al-Qaida. The magazine highlights the US state department’s barely concealed frustration with America’s partners: “The authorities in Qatar are described as ‘largely passive’ in the fight against terror and ‘overall … considered the worst in the region’. Indonesia is said to be an ‘alphabet soup’ of government bodies supposedly responsible, and a ‘universe of aliases’ of suspected terrorists and terrorism sponsors.”

New York Times

• The cables reveal that a week after Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, assured a top US state department official that his country was not sending weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Obama administration lodged a confidential protest accusing Damascus of doing precisely that.

• They also show US diplomats expressing concern that huge cargo planes operated by Badr Airlines of Sudan were flying weapons from Tehran to Khartoum, from where they were shipped to Hamas in Gaza. The US asked countries in the region to deny overflight rights to the airlines. Jordan and several other countries agreed, but Yemen declined, a February 2009 cable reported.

• The New York Times reports how North Korea has abetted the arms race in the Middle East by providing missile technology to Iran and Syria, which then backed Hamas and Hezbollah, according to American intelligence officials and a cable from the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. US diplomats raised questions in the spring of 2009 about planned purchases from North Korea of rocket launchers by Sri Lanka and Scud missile launchers by Yemen.

El País

• The former Spanish foreign minister complained to the US ambassador about the contemptuous way President George Bush was treating Spain: “Spain is the eighth world power and we are treated like a country which does not matter.”

• Spain is worried by the prospect of Mauritania becoming a failed state, a “second Somalia” and an al-Qaida base as it is only 185 miles from the Canary Islands.

• The US embassy in Nicaragua describes the country as a corrupt criminal state financed by drugs and “suitcases full of money sent by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. President Daniel Ortega is seen as unhinged and obsessed by his own security.

Le Monde

• The US and Russia decided to join forces to fight a drug war and identified the main culprit as Afghanistan.

 

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Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Eight

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Qatar is using the al-Jazeera news channel as a bargaining chip in foreign policy negotiations by adapting its coverage to suit other foreign leaders.

• Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups and the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

• Iraqi government officials see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to their state.

• Lebanon’s government warned about “Iran telecom” taking over the country after it uncovered a secret communications network across the country used by Hezbollah.

• Brazil’s government covered up the existence of Islamist terrorist suspects in São Paulo and border areas in an apparent bid to protect the country’s image.

New York Times

• Senior Obama administration officials say many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide and they have received little help in stopping this from allies in the Middle East.

• All Iraq’s neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Turkey, attempt to interfere with the country in different ways, Iraq’s president told the US defence secretary, Robert Gates.

• The US was astonished when the European parliament ordered a haltto an American government programme to monitor international banking transactions for terrorist activity.

El País

• The Spanish newspaper focuses on the US diplomatic mission’s view of Spain’s senior politicians. The prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is described as an “astute politician” not to be underestimated “as many of his enemies have found out too late”. Although well disposed to the US, foreign policy is subordinate to internal political concerns, the dispatch notes.

• King Juan Carlos is described as “a formidable ally where Spanish and US interests coincide”.

 

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Seven

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The US is worried that China could be planning internet warfare via private companies that are known to have recruited top hackers.

• China’s “newly pugnacious” foreign policy is “losing friends worldwide”, the US ambassador to Beijing argued in a cable.

• Hillary Clinton, talking to Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd,referred to China as “your banker”, illustrating America’s deep anxiety over China’s growing economic power and hold on US finances.

• Rolls-Royce lost a lucrative contract to supply helicopter engines to the Spanish military because of a personal intervention by Spain’s prime minister, José Luis Zapatero, following vigorous lobbying from US diplomats, according to a secret cable from the US embassy in Madrid.

Der Spiegel

• US diplomats in Vienna expressed “frustration”, disappointment and concern about Austria’s politicians.

• There is an unexpected culture of consensus within China’s all-powerful, 24-strong Communist party politburo, according to US diplomats in Beijing.

• The American embassy in Beijing has been compiling information on Xi Jinping, the man expected to become China’s next president.

• Cables from the US embassy in Baghdad paint a picture of bewildered diplomats outmanoeuvred by the Iranians.

Le Monde

• US diplomats in Iraq were briefed about the last moments of Saddam Hussein after his execution in December 2006.

• Brazil and the US are divided as to how to deal with Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez.

 

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Six

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Conservative party politicians promised before the election that they would run a “pro-American regime” and buy more arms from the US if they came to power.

• The president of Yemen secretly offered US forces unrestricted access to his territory to conduct unilateral strikes against al-Qaida terrorist targets.

• Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is variously labelled as “petulant” and “bizarre” in his negotiations with US security officials who met him.

• The EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, has predicted “disaster” at the latest round of global climate change negotiations in Mexico.

• The US seeks to manipulate nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming.

• The US backed a bid by the United Arab Emirates to host a major international agency promoting green energy.

• The Foreign Office has privately admitted to a plan to declare Diego Garcia, from which thousands of people were expelled from their homeland to make way for a large US military base, the world’s largest marine protection zone, ending any chance of them being repatriated.

• A potential “environmental disaster” was kept secret by the US last year when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere.

New York Times

• Details of the US’s at times tricky relationship with Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key anti-terrorism ally.

• A Mexican official told US counterparts more than a year ago that the government feared it could lose control of parts of the country to rampant drug cartels.

Der Spiegel

• How US diplomats in Libya deal with Muammar Gaddafi, “a man plagued by paranoia, anxiety and neuroses, a man who only trusts his closest advisers, a man whose pride is easily wounded and a man who will suffer no criticism”.

Le Monde

• President Sarkozy’s new openness will allow the US to gain more influence in Africa without meeting resistance from French vested interests on the continent.

• Morocco felt angry and betrayed after Sarkozy decided to make Algeria the first stop on his inaugural visit outside Europe as president, US diplomats learn.

El País

• The paper focuses on reports about Spain’s main opposition party, the conservative People’s Party, which has been in a political desert since losing the 2004 election. Its leader Mariano Rajoy is held in scant regard by the US diplomatic mission and is said to owe his longevity in office “more than ever to the absence of a credible successor within his party”.

• One cable relates a dinner in 2007 at which Rajoy’s predecessor, José María Aznar, was described as having a marked “lack of enthusiasm for his hand-picked successor” and possible “doubts that Rajoy is the man to return the PP to power”. “If he saw his country descend to extremely dire straits, he would consider ‘stepping back in’,” the ambassador reported.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Cable Gate Day Five

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The British military was criticised for failing to establish security in Sangin by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the US commander of Nato troops, according to diplomatic cables.

Rampant government corruption in Afghanistan is revealed by the cables, including an incident last year when the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash.

Gordon Brown was written off as prime minister by the US embassy in London a year into his premiership. It concluded that an “abysmal track record” had left him lurching from “political disaster to disaster”, according to cables released by WikiLeaks. He briefly earned some praise when he led the recapitalising of banks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers but within months his government was deemed a “sinking ship”. Brown’s international initiatives, from food summits to global disarmament and a UK national security council, were treated with indifference bordering on disdain by the Americans, according to US embassy cables.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, is erratic, emotional and prone to believing paranoid conspiracy theories, according to frustrated diplomats and foreign statesmen. He has also been accused by his own ministers of complicity in criminal activity, including ordering the physical intimidation of the top official in charge of leading negotiations with the Taliban.

•US diplomats have reported suspicions that Silvio Berlusconi could be “profiting personally and handsomely” from secret deals with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, according to cables released by WikiLeaks. They centre on allegations that the Italian leader has been promised a cut of huge energy contracts. Another memo quoted a friend of Berlusconi saying the Italian prime minister’s fondness for partying had taken a physical and political toll on him.

American officials dismissed British protests about secret US spy flights taking place from the UK’s Cyprus airbase, amid concerns from Labour ministers, upset about rendition flights going on behind their backs, that the UK would be an unwitting accomplice to torture.

The British Foreign Office misled parliament over the plight of thousands of islanders who were expelled from their Indian Ocean homeland – the British colony of Diego Garcia – to make way for a large US military base, according to secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. It has privately admitted its latest plan to declare the islands the world’s largest marine protection zone will end any chance of them being repatriated. Publicly ministers have claimed the proposed park would have no effect on the islanders’ right of return.

•The cables reveal Washington’s opinion on Gordon Brown’s potential successors. David Miliband was deemed “too brainy”, Alan Johnson had a “lack of killer instinct” and Harriet Harman was a “policy lightweight but an adept interparty operator”.

A scandal involving foreign contractors employed to train Afghan policemen who took drugs and paid for young “dancing boys” to entertain them in northern Afghanistan caused such panic that the interior minister begged the US embassy to try to “quash” the story, according a US embassy cable. The Afghan government feared the story, if published, would “endanger lives” and was particularly concerned that a video of the incident might be made public.

The US military has been charging its allies a 15% handling fee on hundreds of millions of dollars being raised internationally to build up the Afghan army. Germany has threatened to cancel contributions, raising concerns that money is going to the US treasury.

Iran is financing a range of Afghan religious and political leaders, grooming Afghan religious scholars, training Taliban militants and even seeking to influence MPs, according to cables from the US embassy in Kabul.

The US has lost faith in the Mexican army’s ability to win the country’s drugs war, branding it slow, clumsy and no match for “sophisticated” narco-traffickers.

The US is convinced that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghan president’s younger half-brother and a senior figure in Kandahar, is corrupt, according to embassy cables. He is described as dominating access to “economic resources, patronage and protection”. Two of Hamid Karzai’s brothers planned to ask for asylum in the US, while other family members stayed away and kept their money out of Afghanistan – so anxious were they that the Afghan president would lose last year’s election.

The Obama administration and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, are determined to reject talks with Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, and have consistently worked to split his movement, according to US diplomatic cables. Karzai has sometimes publicly floated the idea of dialogue with Omar and other top Taliban, but the cables show his private position is the opposite.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe “almost came to blows” at a Latin America unity summit, according to a US memo, which described it as “the worst expression of banana republic discourse”.

A Kremlin campaign to airbrush Stalin’s role in Russian history by dictating how academics write about the past is only half-hearted, US diplomats believe. They also feel there are enough Russians striving to remember the purge victims to combat any rewrite. The cable concerns the so-called “history wars”, a nationalist campaign to defend Russia’s honour.

Turkmenistan’s president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, is “vain, suspicious, guarded, strict, very conservative”, a “micro-manager” and “a practised liar”, US diplomats say.

•Four months before his death the Nobel-prize winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn offered qualified praise for Vladimir Putin, arguing that he was doing a better job as Russia’s leader than Boris Yeltsin or Mikhail Gorbachev. Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and returned to Russia 20 years later.

Moldova’s president offered a $10m (£6.4m) bribe to a political rival in a desperate bid to keep his defeated communist government in power, according to a secret US diplomatic cable.

New York Times

•Afghanistan emerges as a land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm. Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the US embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist”.

Der Spiegel

Berlin was irritated by a 15% administration fee the US sought to charge Germany on a €50m donation made to a trust fund set up to improve the Afghan army. A top German diplomat complained the fee would be a tough sell to taxpayers.

Mistrust between the US and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, is very deep. Karzai is convinced the US has thrown its backing behind his rival Abdullah Abdullah.

The close relationship between Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a source of unease for the US state department. The leaked cables contain allegations of personal business interests that both politicians deny.

US diplomats are concerned about the growing power of Russian organised crime and believe it has contacts with the highest levels of government in Moscow.

Le Monde

France is committed to staying the course in Afghanistan even though public opposition to the war and electoral considerations have weighed heavily on Nicolas Sarkozy. Amid concerns that the French president was trying to distance himself from the US to improve his popularity, Barack Obama was advised that a phone call to him could have a decisive impact. The US president was told: “Flattery would lead very far.”

Iran is extending its influence in Afghanistan in the same way it did in Iraq. It has been supporting insurgent groups as well as financially backing politicians.

 

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Four

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Russia is a “virtual mafia state” with rampant corruption and scant separation between the activities of the government and organised crime. Vladimir Putin is accused of amassing “illicit proceeds” from his time in office, which various sources allege are hidden overseas. And he was likely to have known about the operation in London to murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, Washington’s top diplomat in Europe alleged.

• British and US officials colluded to manoeuvre around a proposed ban on cluster bombs, allowing the US to keep the munitions on British territory, regardless of whether a treaty forbidding their use was implemented. Parliament was kept in the dark about the secret agreement, approved by then-foreign secretary David Miliband.

• US diplomats believed that the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, bore responsibility for a massacre last year that is the subject of a UN war crimes inquiry.

• Russia armed Georgian separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and carried out a wave of “covert actions” to undermine Georgia in the runup to the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, according to US diplomats.

• President Dmitry Medvedev was described by US diplomats as a junior figure, who “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman”.

• Gas supplies to Ukranian and EU states are linked to the Russian mafia, according to the US ambassador in Kiev.

• Moscow’s veteran mayor Yuri Luzhkov was accused by the US ambassador of sitting on top of a “pyramid of corruption” involving the Kremlin, Russia’s police force, its security service, political parties and crime groups by the US ambassador.

• Miliband’s campaign to champion aid and human rights during the Sri Lankan humanitarian crisis last year was largely motivated by a desire to win favour with Tamil voters in the UK, according to a Foreign Office official.

Der Spiegel

• The US is sceptical that Russian President Medvedev has much of a future, believing Putin to be “in the driver’s seat”.

• Having helped to build up Georgia’s military capabilities, the US made last-ditch diplomatic attempts to try to prevent it going to war with Russia in 2008. Washington’s envoy to the Caucasus warned Georgia that war would “cost it valuable support in Washington and European capitals”, while publicly George W Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, continued to give their unqualified support to Georgia.

• The US has long been trying to loosen Russia’s grip on Ukraine, according to diplomatic cables. On the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, they sought to make him a US partner thereby striking a diplomatic blow against the Kremlin.

Le Monde

• The US embassy in Moscow criticised the IMF, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for offering huge loans to Russia it felt were not justified.

El País

• One of the biggest objectives at the US embassy in Madrid over the past seven years has been trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of the killing of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad. Telecinco cameraman José Couso was killed on 8 April 2003 during a tank shelling of the Hotel Palestine where he and other journalists were staying while they were covering the Iraq war. US diplomats held a host of meetings about the case with high-ranking members of the Spanish government.

New York Times

• The Russian prime minister, Putin, often did not show up at his office, according to rumours cited in a document titled Questioning Putin’s Work Ethic.

• US diplomats warned of increasing distrust of the United States in Canada. They described “negative popular stereotyping” of Americans on Canadian TV. They also said Canadians “always carry a chip on their shoulder” in part because of a feeling that their country “is condemned to always play ‘Robin’ to the US ‘Batman'”.

 

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Three

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, privately criticised David Cameron and George Osborne (now the prime minister and chancellor) before the election for their lack of experience, the lack of depth in their inner circle and their tendency to think about issues only in terms of their electoral impact. Osborne lacked gravitas and was seen as a political lightweight because of his “high-pitched vocal delivery” according to private Conservative polling before the election.

• US and British diplomats fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme could lead to terrorists obtaining fissile material, or a devastating nuclear exchange with India. Also, small teams of US special forces have been operating secretly inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, with Pakistani government approval. And the US concluded that Pakistani troops were responsible for a spate of extra-judicial killings in the Swat Valley and tribal belt, but decided not to comment publicly.

• Gordon Brown unsuccessfully lobbied the US for the British computer hacker Gary McKinnon to be allowed to serve any jail sentence in the UK. David Cameron said British people generally believe McKinnon is guilty “but they are sympathetic”.

• The US ambassador to Pakistan said the Pakistani army is covertly sponsoring four major militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Mumbai attackers, Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), and “no amount of money” will change the policy. Also, US diplomats discovered hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan earmarked for fighting Islamist militants was not used for that purpose.

• Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, considered pushing President Asif Ali Zardari from office and forcing him into exile to resolve a political dispute, the US embassy cables reveal. Separately, Zardari once told the US vice-president, Joe Biden, he feared the military “might take me out”. He told the Americans his sister would lead if he was assassinated. Another cable revealed that the Pakistani president was described as a “numbskull” by Sir Jock Stirrup, Britain’s then chief of defence staff.

• The US praised former British Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg for his campaign to persuade European countries to take in remaining detainees from the prison camp.

• Senior Lib Dem officials, who now work in No 10 and the Cabinet Office, planned a campaign to depict David Cameron as “fake” and “out of touch” during the election campaign, but abandoned the strategy because it was deemed too aggressive after the death of his son, Ivan.

• The Tories told the US before the general election that a Conservative government could be tougher on Pakistan as it was less reliant on votes from people with a Pakistani connections than Labour. Referring to Muslim extremists coming to Britain from Pakistan, Cameron said that under Labour “we let in a lot of crazies and did not wake up early enough”.

• Zardari claimed that the brother of Pakistan’s opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, “tipped off” LeT about impending UN sanctions after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, allowing the group to empty its bank accounts. British diplomats feared India would respond with force to the attacks but the US thought the UK was “over-reacting”.

• The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is portrayed as a self-absorbed, thin-skinned, erratic character who tyrannises his ministers and staff but is also a brilliant political tactician, in US memos. The Saudis were irritated by Sarkozy planning to take Carla Bruni on a state visit to their country before she was married. Sarkozy invited Gordon Brown and the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, to last year’s D-day commemorations because “the survival of their governments was at stake”.

• The British government promised to protect US interests during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

• The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been sheltering the leader of the nationalist insurgency in Pakistan’s Balochistan province for years.

Le Monde

• Le Monde focuses on what the cables say about Sarkozy, notably his pro-Americanism, his idea that an international force could replace the US in Iraq, and the US view on his election that he was “a novice” in international affairs with a poor grasp of English.

Der Spiegel

• The paper has significant coverage of Pakistan, with a story that the Pakistani military and secret service are heavily involved in the country’s politics and often work against US interests.

• A subsidiary of the US private security firm Xe (then known as Blackwater) flouted German arms export law. It transported German helicopters to Afghanistan via Britain and Turkey without a permit because it was taking too long to get the German export papers.

 

Categories: wikileaks