What emerges from the litany of Wikileaks cables is the ineptitude of American foreign policy, either jumping at shadows or trying to impose its bullying ways on the world, often unsuccessfully.
Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
The plan would have sparked a proxy battle between the US and its allies against Iran, fought in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
The Saudi plan was never enacted but reflects the anxiety of Saudi Arabia – as well as the US – about growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The proposal was made by the veteran Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, to the US special adviser to Iraq, David Satterfield. The US responded by expressing scepticism about the military feasibility of the plan.
It would have marked a return of US forces to Lebanon almost three decades after they fled in the wake of the 1983 suicide attack on US marine barracks in Beirut that killed 299 American and French military personnel.
Faisal, in a US cable marked secret, emphasised the need for what he referred to as a “security response” to the military challenge to the Lebanon government from Hezbollah, the Shia militia backed by Iran and, to a lesser extent, Syria.
The cable says: “Specifically, Saud argued for an ‘Arab force’ to create and maintain order in and around Beirut.
“The US and Nato would need to provide transport and logistical support, as well as ‘naval and air cover’. Saud said that a Hezbollah victory in Beirut would mean the end of the Siniora government and the ‘Iranian takeover’ of Lebanon.”
Syrian officials were stunned by the mysterious assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative in Damascus two years ago, triggering a blame game between rival security services and frenzied speculation across the Middle East about who did it.
US reports from February 2008, revealed by WikiLeaks, described how the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was shocked when Imad Mughniyeh was murdered by a sophisticated bomb planted in his car. Mughniyeh, a founder member of the militant Lebanese Shia movement, was wanted by the US, Israel, France and other governments. Hezbollah is backed by Iran and Syria.
“Syrian military intelligence and general intelligence directorate officials are currently engaged in an internecine struggle to blame each other for the breach of security that resulted in Mughniyeh’s death,” the US embassy reported.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, the well-connected Abdel Aziz Khoja, told US diplomats in Beirut that Hezbollah believed the Syrians were responsible for the Damascus killing. No Syrian official was present at Mughniyeh’s funeral in Beirut’s southern suburbs the following day. Iran was represented by its foreign minister, who, the Saudi envoy said, had come to calm down Hezbollah and keep it from taking action against Syria.
Another rumour, Khoja said, was that Syria and Israel had made a deal to allow Mughniyeh to be killed, an Israeli objective. No one has ever claimed responsibility for the assassination, though Israel has been widely blamed for it.
US diplomats reported that the killing led to tensions between Syria and Iran, perhaps because Tehran shared Khoja’s suspicion of Syrian complicity in the affair.
Washington has worked discreetly to block the supply of Iranian and Syrian weapons to Islamist groups in the Middle East amid evidence showed Scud-D missiles had been supplied to Hezbollah, according to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
The United States, in many cases using secret intelligence provided by Israel, had pressured Arab governments not to cooperate with arms smuggling to Palestinian group Hamas or Lebanon’s Hezbollah, said a report in the Guardian.