To recap: the US Cables dropped by WikiLeaks on Sunday November 28 contain 251,287 cables from 250 US embassies. Five publications — The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel — were granted prior access to the cables on condition of agreed timelines for release. As news agencies throughout the world scramble to be the first to break the most scandalous, outrageous or bizarre cables, here are a few of the best so far as sourced from The Guardian (UK) and The Daily Beast (US):

  • Pakistan nuclear fears: “The latest cache of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks contains warnings that Pakistan is rapidly building its nuclear stockpile despite the country’s growing instability and “pending economic catastrophe”.The ambassador starkly informed Washington that “no amount of money” from the US would stop the Pakistani army backing Islamist militants and the Afghan Taliban insurgency.

  • Bank of England head criticised David Cameron: The head of the Bank of England privately criticised David Cameron and George Osborne 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.

  • Yemen Takes the fall for US drones: Leaked documents reveal that Yemen has been covering up for the US in the fight against al-Qaeda by saying publicly that attacks initiated by the State Department were directed by Yemen. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told General David Petraeus in January 2010. The cover-up, made necessary by severe distrust of the US in the Middle East, prompted Yemen’s prime minister to joke about how the president had “lied” to his parliament about the strikes.
  • China hacked Google — and the Dalai Lama: The Chinese government was behind the much-publicised cyber attack on Google’s computer network this year, according to “a Chinese contact” who told the US Embassy in Beijing about “a co-ordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives”.
  • Hillary commissioned UN spies: Clinton wanted diplomats to snoop out credit-card numbers, frequent-flyer details, schedules, email addresses, cellphone numbers, and even DNA of the members of the UN Security Council, according to the documents. That includes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, about whom the secretary of state requested information on “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat”.
  • “Feckless” Berlusconi has “shadowy” ties to Putin: The cables are not very kind to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is deemed “feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader” by Elizabeth Dibble, the US envoy to Rome. Another leaked document details Berlusconi’s already known “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard”. The reports also question the intimate relationship between Berlusconi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who reportedly use a “shadowy” bilingual go-between and lavish each other with expensive gifts.
  • Saudi King wants a US military strike on Iran: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah repeatedly pushed the US to attack Iran, according to the US ambassador there. “Cut off the head of the snake,” the king said in 2008, requesting a military strike against Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program. The Saudi government also called for “severe US and international sanctions on Iran”. Israel also urged action, labeling 2010 a critical year.
  • Corrupt Afghan VP caught with $52 million in cash: Officials working with the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United Arab Emirates last year discovered that Afghanistan’s visiting vice-president Ahmed Zia Massoud had $52 million on him — in cash. Calling the bonanza a “significant amount”, the US Embassy let him keep it “without revealing the money’s origin or destination”. Massoud denies funnelling any cash out of Afghanistan.
  • US offers payouts in exchange for Guantanamo detainees: US authorities were so anxious to resettle Guantanamo prisoners abroad that they were ready to strike any deal with a foreign country willing to take them. Officials offered Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the Pacific — population 98,000 — millions of dollars in incentives to shelter Chinese Muslim detainees. They also bribed Slovenian officials to take an inmate in exchange for the chance to meet President Obama. Belgium, meanwhile, was told that taking Guantanamo prisoners would be a “low-cost way … to attain prominence in Europe”.
  • US, South Korea planning to reunite the two Koreas: American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse. They’ve also considered inducing China to go along with reunification, with the South Korean ambassador telling the State Department in February 2010 that economic incentives would “help salve” China should a united Korea end up in a “benign alliance” with the United States.

Peter Fray

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