Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has released 250,000 diplomatic cables sent by U.S. embassies to Washington, with amazing revelations on the world’s superpower’s diplomatic supergames around the world.
They include reports of some Arab leaders — including Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah — urging the U.S. to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons program. Other concerns include the security of Pakistani nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon, the widespread use of computer hacking by China’s government. The released reports also indicate the very close relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi and alleged links between the Russian government and organized crime.
Five of the word’s largest newspapers – El Pais, Le Monde, Der Spiegal, Guardian and the New York Times have received Wikileaks data and published an array of stories, which are already making headlines around the world.
Most interesting on Armenia and Karabakh
Surprisingly, the most interesting information on Armenia and Karabakh comes from a Wikileaks cable summerizing Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns’ hour-long meeting with Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev. Here are some selected extracts:
6. (C) Aliyev noted that at Sochi, President Sargsian had inserted a proposal for specifying a definite date for a referendum or plebiscite on NK final status. This, Aliyev argued, undermined the entire framework of the agreement, which is premised on an eventual referendum ) with no definite timeframe ) in exchange for legalizing “the illegally established regime in NK.”” He also noted that Armenia is vulnerable to isolation because it is dependent upon remittances from its diaspora, as well as imports of gas and electricity. “After 18 years of negotiation, we have tested all options. If this phase (of Minsk Group talks) ends, what is next?” the President asked aloud.
7. (C) In response to U/S Burns’ question about the Russian role in the NK talks, Aliyev responded that he was convinced that Medvedev’s efforts have been sincere. He said that Medvedev has personally met with the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents five times. Thus any failure to make progress on this issue will damage Medvedev’s credibility. He said that at Sochi, Medvedev tried to persuade Sargsian to achieve a breakthrough. He added, however, that it was strange that with so much pressure from Moscow and Lavrov’s visit to Yeveran, the Armenians not only resisted progress, but actually backtracked on previously-agreed items. In response to a question, Aliyev said that he believes that PM Putin has his own separate opinion about the desirability of an NK resolution. “I have no evidence, but I can feel this,” Aliyev remarked.
8. (C) Aliyev said that he considers Medvedev “a modern, new-generation intellectual,” surrounded by people whom he does not control. He said that he has personally witnessed Medvedev taking decisions that then required further approval before they were implemented, referring specifically to a border demarcation agreement that he had agreed with Medvedev only to have it stymied by “”others,”” presumably in the prime ministerial office. He added, “Many high-ranking officials don’t recognize (Medvedev) as a leader.” He said that there are signs of a strong confrontation between the teams of the two men, although not yet between Putin and Medvedev personally. “We have a saying in Azeri, ‘Two heads cannot be boiled in one pot'” (crude street slang suggesting that two leaders are spoiling for a fight).
9. (C) U/S Burns stressed that the U.S. believes that progress on the Turkey-Armenia protocols could create political space for Sargsian to be more flexible on NK. He continued that the reverse was also true, that a failure of the Turkey-Armenia process would almost certainly result in serious negative consequences for the NK process. Aliyev said that NK progress would require a minimum of five or six months. He suggested that the entire Turkey-Armenia protocol ratification process be delayed until after April 24. He said that the “Sword of Damocles” of Armenian Remembrance Day is hanging unhelpfully not only over the Turkey-Armenia process, but also now the NK progress. “If there were no deadline, maybe we could see how to combine our efforts (to resolve NK).”
19. (C) Unprompted by U/S Burns, Aliyev spelled out the reasons Azerbaijan decided to sell gas to Russia last year, noting that “”Moscow had asked” and offered a good price for gas that was surplus anyway. But the real reason, Aliyev confided, was that the sale illustrated to “our Turkish friends” that they will not be allowed to create a gas distribution hub. “Aliyev made clear his distaste for the Erdogan government in Turkey, underscoring the “naivete” of their foreign policy and the failure of their initiatives, including the loss of support for Turkey among traditional international friends because of Ankara,s hostility to Israel. He noted that in his view, there had never been any merit to the notion of a “moderate Islamist” government in Turkey, and that Erdogan,s insistence on promoting Hamas and Gaza ) when other Arab countries were notably silent on these issues ) had brought Turkey no benefits.
Armenia in alleged arms transfer to Iran
One of the most interesting Wikileaks cables about Armenia is undoubtedly the 24 December, 2008 letter from U.S. Deputy Secretary Negroponte to Armenia’s President regarding a 2003 Armenian Arms procurement for Iran.
“Dear Mr. President:
We value our positive relationship with your government, as we explore a range of shared interests, especially an agreement on Nagorno Karabakh and normalization of Armenia’s relations with Turkey. At the same time, we are dismayed by a serious and, indeed, deadly – arms re-export case.
Secretary Rice, Assistant Secretary Fried, Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryza, and Ambassador Yovanovitch have raised with you our deep concerns about Armenia’s transfer of arms to Iran which resulted in the death and injury of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Notwithstanding the close relationship between our countries, neither the Administration nor the U.S. Congress can overlook this case. By law, the transfer of these weapons requires us to consider whether there is a basis for the imposition of U.S. sanctions. If sanctions are imposed, penalties could include the cutoff of U.S. assistance and certain export restrictions.
To avoid such sanctions, it is essential that you present compelling evidence that your government is now in partnership with us to ensure such transfers do not occur in the future.
To convince the United States that this will not happen again, we seek a written agreement from Armenia, memorializing its intent to implement measures that will prevent Armenia from becoming a source of weapons for Iran or other states or groups involved wit terrorism and/or weapons proliferation.
John D. Negroponte”
S) Background: In 2003, Armenia facilitated Iran’s purchase of rockets and machine guns. In 2007, some of these weapons were recovered from two Shia militant attacks in which a United States soldier was killed and six others were injured in Iraq. The Secretary discussed our concerns with President Sargsian on the margins of the UN General Assembly, but he denied any transfer occurred. The direct role of high-level Armenian officials and the link of the weapons to an attack on U.S. forces make this case unique and highly troubling. These transfers may provide a basis for sanctions pursuant to U.S. legal authorities. We propose a series of steps that Armenia will need to take to prevent future transfers, which will be weighed in the consideration of sanctions. We hope to use the threat of sanctions as a tool to generate Armenian responsiveness so that we will not be forced to impose sanctions measures.
For a great review of interesting cables on Armenia and the Caucasus check out ianyanmag. Also, thank you Arshakuni, for the link and the hint!