GARETH PORTER and JIM LOBE
Dec 7, 2010
The dominant theme that emerged in U.S. media coverage of the first round of Wikileaks diplomatic cables last week was that Arab regimes in the Gulf – led by Saudi Arabia – shared Israel’s view that Iran’s nuclear program had to be stopped by military force, if necessary.
The New York Times generated that version with a front- page story featuring an alleged quote by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urging the United States to “cut off the head of the snake”, as well as other statements by Gulf Arab leaders suggesting support for military action.
“The cables reveal how Iran’s ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries -notably the Saudis – in a common cause,” the Times claimed.
The notion that these leaders, like Israel, favor a military solution to Iran’s nuclear program has become widely accepted by the news media in the past week. In a curtain-raiser to this week’s talks in Geneva between Iran and the world’s most powerful nations, for example, the Washington Post Monday asserted that the Wikileaks disclosure “show[ed] that Persian Gulf leaders have pressed for a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities…”
But a careful reading of all the diplomatic cables reporting the views of Saudi and other Gulf Arab regimes on Iran shows that the Times’ account seriously distorted the content – and in the case of the Saudis, ignored the context – of the cables released by Wikileaks.
The original Times story, headlined “From Arabs and Israelis, Sharp Distress Over a Nuclear Iran”, referred to “a largely silent front of Arab states whose position on sanctions and force looked much like the Israelis”.