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Nov 29, 2010 | 20:56 GMT

Dispatch: WikiLeaks and Iran's Nuclear Program

Analyst Reva Bhalla puts the information from the leaked U.S. State Department cables on Iran in context. Editor's Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. Iran was a major theme in the WikiLeaks documents released over the weekend with a number of Arab leaders urging the United States to take more decisive action against the Iranian nuclear program. The WikiLeaks documents also revealed, however, the severe complications surrounding such a military strike against Iran. There are a number of very colorful statements made by Arab leaders in the WikiLeaks documents. One by Saudi King Abdullah talked about cutting the head off the snake in reference to Iran, while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak echoed such comments and also commented how the Persians cannot be trusted by anyone and that their interference in Arab affairs was unacceptable. What we can glean from these insights is that Arab apprehension over Iranian expansion is really nothing new but they really are telling of Arab support for a potential military strike against Iran. With these diplomatic cables it can be that much more difficult for the Arab states to convince their own populations that they wouldn't be complicit in a potential military strike against Iran. Iran can also use these statements to tout its claim that the Arabs states are hypocritical in their support for groups like Hamas. Particularly, Egypt is extremely concerned about the empowerment of Hamas and revealed in these cables how it needs to continue cooperating with the Americans and the Israelis in containing Hamas's power. So everyone from Al Qaeda to Iran to the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood can use these statements to further undermine the credibility of the Arab regimes in the Arab street. Now the cables also revealed severe limitations of conventional military strikes against Iran. There was one cable which talked about Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack describing a 6 to 18 month timeline in which the conventional strike would need to be carried out. Otherwise the cost of the attack would raise to the extent that that that collateral damage would be unacceptable. Now, Barack is not necessarily saying that Iran is going to achieve a nuclear capability within a 6 to 18 month timeline. His statements go back to June 2009 - what he is describing is the degree to which the Iranians have hardened their nuclear sites (something which STRATFOR has discussed frequently) could reach the point to where the United States and Israel would no longer be able to launch a conventional strike against Iran without resorting to nuclear weapons. In which case, the collateral damage as Barack says, would be unacceptable. So this is a very critical timeline that the Israelis and the Americans are discussing. It's a timeline that the Iranians are paying attention to closely. Remember that the Iranians are extremely adept at denial and deception techniques and concealing their most prized assets - including the nuclear program. So, really the question STRATFOR is asking itself right now in reviewing all these cables is where exactly is Iran in this timeline of hardening its nuclear sites? And can the United States still pose a meaningful military threat against the Iranians without the Iranians calling the U.S. bluff?
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Dispatch: WikiLeaks and Iran's Nuclear Program
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