WikiLeaks: Whither Muslim brotherood?

Published: December 1, 2010
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It was never really a secret that Saudi Arabia did not like Iran.

It was never really a secret that Saudi Arabia did not like Iran. Perhaps there may be a sectarian history to this or maybe it is simple old realpolitik with two large states vying for regional power. But Saudi Arabia isn’t the only Muslim country that seems to loathe Iran. There is the UAE and Kuwait as well as, albeit to a lesser extent, Qatar.

According to a cable of Feb 9, 2010, from US ambassador to UAE to Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the US armed forces, prior to the latter’s meeting with the UAE crown prince and defence minister, the UAE is one of America’s most trusted partners in the region and “most useful friends worldwide”.

The ports of Dubai and Fujairah are the “logistics backbone for the US Fifth [Fleet]”. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is responsible for operations in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and down south as far as eastern Africa. Minhad airbase, some 20 kilometres south of Dubai is “a critical hub for coalition/ISAF partners in Afghanistan, including the Australians, Dutch, Canadians, Brits and Kiwis”.

This cable says that the UAE leadership sees Iran as its “primary external threat”. The defence minister and crown prince of the UAE is said to not believe that the west will be able to put adequate pressure on Iran and also is of the view, according to this cable, that Tehran cannot be persuaded to give up its nuclear weapons programme. As a result, his efforts to build up the UAE’s armed forces is seen as “near-obsessive”. The UAE has “quietly” deployed forces in Afghanistan, being the first Arab country to do so. The Americans are  told by the UAE defence minister, much to their disbelief, that Iran is active in destabilising Yemen, by supporting the Houthi (who are said to Shia) rebels.

The UAE’s obsession with Iran seems to run deeper than that of even the Americans. According to cable dated Feb 22, 2010, from the American ambassador to the UAE, the country’s foreign minister Sheikh Adullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, told a visiting delegation of US Congress members in a meeting on Feb 17 that the nuclear issue “is only one aspect of the Iran problem, and that Iran’s regional meddling was a serious concern”. He said further that the UAE was concerned that “Gulf allies were being shut out of Iran sanctions planning”.

A cable by the US embassy in Kuwait dated Feb 17, 2010, detailed a meeting between Kuwait’s interior minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah and the US ambassador. The minister said that he was “deeply concerned about Iranian actions, particularly in Yemen with the Houthis” and that Iran was the “beating heart” of Islamic extremism, adding that “even Palestinians now aspire to be Shia because they have bought Iranian ‘stories’ about Shia being more prepared to “fight to the end” and stand up to Israel”.

A cable by the US embassy in Muscat, Oman, dated Feb 2, 2010, suggested that Oman was very unhappy about an article in the New York Times that had perhaps suggested that it, along with other Gulf states, was going to receive Patriot missile batteries from America. In a ‘comment’ on the reaction of the government of Oman, the US embassy noted that a statement by a senior Omani official denying any such proposal would also serve to “protect the US/Omani relationship, as any belief that the US would attempt to utilize Omani territory in this way could potentially cause a public backlash that would jeopardize other aspects of the relationship”. Furthermore, while “Iran is Oman’s number one strategic threat; however, the Government of Oman fundamentally believes the threat can be mitigated through careful management of the relationship. Therefore, it works very deliberately to create a public perception of balance in its relationships with the US and Iran”.

According to a cable of Jan 26, 2010, from the US embassy in Ankara prior to a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s stance on Israel came up, especially his “outburst at Davos”. The cable said that both the Americans and “his staff” (meaning that of the Turkish prime minister) were seeking to “contain” such behaviour.

A cable describing a meeting on Feb 8, 2010, between and the US defence secretary and the French foreign minister in Paris quoted the two discussing the situation in Pakistan. It quoted him as saying that it was “astonishing” that President Zardari had remained in power and that the Pakistanis had conducted such effective COIN operations. The defence secretary “commented that one can never be an optimist about Pakistan, but that the changes had been striking”.

A cable from Jan 28, 2009, detailed a meeting between the Dutch and Russian ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, accompanied by a senior US embassy official with the undersecretary for multilateral affairs at the ministry of foreign affairs in Riyadh. During the course of the meeting, discussion came on Iran with the Saudi official saying that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons “other countries in the Gulf region would be compelled to do the same, or to permit the stationing of nuclear weapons in the Gulf to serve as a deterrent to the Iranians”.

Omar R Quraishi

Omar R Quraishi

The editor of the editorial pages of The Express Tribune. He tweets as @omar_quraishi (twitter.com/omar_quraishi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://Twitter.Com/KarachiCrisis KarachiCrisis

    Sectarian difference exist for over 1400 years, though also as long as Iran was a dictator regime (loyal to USA) like these arab royals are, it was not taken as a threat, conclusion: Its all about USA and its interest in the region.Recommend

  • Syed

    These are all cables available on the web .. where is yours intellectual contribution? Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    a lot of it is about concerns about israel, americans are rallying support against iran in the region, cause the israelis see iran as a threat, israel is worried there will be a rival power in the regionRecommend

  • Humanity

    The Arab / Iranian rivalry predates Islam :) The sh’ia /sunni schism became the salient reason for distrust between the Arabs and the Iranians.post-Islam. The sectarian hatred coupled with the fact that the oil producing regions in the M.E are pre-dominantly Sh’ia occupied, keep the Arabs awake at night. It is for the control of the petro $$ that the Arabs are in cohoots with the U.S. Israel was created to keep the small minds busy with in-fighting to spend the petro $$ on defense, thereby keeping the defense industrial complex of the west humming. A win-win for the west! Once the oil is finished the West will no longer be bowing to the KSA.

    However, before the oil runs out, the ecological change due global warming will create massive global changes. The under developed countries are being dried out as well as drowned by the hotter temperatures. Thanks again to the black gold of the KSA !! While the fractured ummah stays busy in chest thumping, the west works for fossil duel independence and would perhaps take adequate measures to withstand the effects of global warming. Israel plans to be fossil-fuel independent by 2020.

    The West exploits the weaknesses for its own interest, obviously! Why shouldn’t it? What does the ummah plan to do other than hanging a helpless woman for blasphemous charges?Recommend

  • nina

    @Humanity:
    Totally agree with your comments.Recommend

  • iWatch

    And just because it was leaked by Wikileaks….we believe every word is true…whither investigating the evidence?Recommend

  • Madeeha Ansari

    It’s like Hollywood.

    In terms of collated information, here’s something cool:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2010/nov/28/us-embassy-cables-wikileaks?&CMP=EMCNEWEML2238Recommend

  • Faria Syed

    Thanks for the great link Madeeha!

    Recommend

  • Tyrone

    It’s not an obsession it’s reality, the threat from Iran is real. The Gulf states are a mix the rulers are Suni but part of their population are Shia. In places like Bahrain the Shia majority and ruled by a Sunni. (Iraq was the same till the invasion)
    I’m sure you guys don’t remember the havoc created in 1989 (?) when Iranians pilgrims took over parts of Mecca during the Hajj.
    More recently in the 90s there was unrest in Bahrain , the people demanded the restoration of the parliament ( a legitimate request) however they resorted to violence that makes Karachi’s no go areas appear safe. The opposition were receiving backing from Iran both directly and indirectly.
    Sectarian differences play a big role as the battle for the rule of Islam rages between the sects. On religious grounds, here and all over the Muslim world, but also in political and strategic grounds in the Middle East.
    Why wouldn’t the GCC states fear a bigger neighbor like Iran? Being also Muslim is not a good enough reason. Unity aside there are other concerns especially when sectarian divides run deep as under currents. The Arab states had been under 500 or so years of Ottoman rule and oppression, yet they bear no visible resentment to Turkey.
    In the 80s the GCC states moved closer to Israel but they supported fully Saddam’s Iran war. They matter of factly supported a fellow Arab against a regime led by a dangerous and charismatic leader with a penchant for belligerence. That meant that they and Israel were loosely on the same side.
    Iran before had a visible sphere of influence in Lebanon and in Gaza, with support among Shias in the Gulf. But thanks to the US actions they now have virtual control over Iraq plus no longer worrying about the threat of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    The US it is claimed has strengthened Israel’s position in the region but look how strong Iran has become due to the US’s costly wars?
    Anyway 2-3 years back a Saudi minister openly said that the US had given Iraq to Iran on a plate! Perhaps you guys missed that comment?
    Anyone who knows the history of the region post independence knows how convoluted things are. The UAR, the wars with Israel, the PLO’s ruling of Jordan, the Black September group, the tangle that was and is Lebanon, even territorial disputes between GCC states over tiny islands!

    Referring to the link: See one of the cables about Abu Dhabi complaining about Iran’s emirates!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/2534/whose-country-is-this-anyway-not-the-tax-payers/ Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    iWatch: Did you believe Wikileaks when it detailed civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and extraordinary rendition? Recommend

  • http://www.razarumi.com Raza Rumi

    Omar: this is an excellent post. Thanks for being so candid and unpacking the myth of Ummah…Recommend

  • Aryan Chatterji

    @ Humanity – u are spot on bro …. but guess what its the developing countries and their friends who have already started controlling this century’ actions. So, the mullas can at the best be friends with them (as a business partner and not terror partner) and answer the West in the long run ” : -) Hope u got my point !Recommend

  • Omar R Quraishi

    thanks much razaRecommend

  • Madeeha Ansari

    @Faria Syed:

    It was for web-folk and those who appreciate the visually appealing!Recommend

  • rajeev

    @Humanity:
    “What does the ummah plan to do other than hanging a helpless woman for blasphemous charges?”
    Brilliant!Recommend