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MIDDLE EAST: Arab media play down WikiLeaks reports of support for Iran war

November 29, 2010 |  8:20 am

Picture 5 Well, this is awkward.

Many of the same Arab governments that called for an investigation into U.S. war crimes based on the WikiLeaks Iraq war log continue to ignore revelations in the latest trove of leaked documents that show Arab leaders pushed the United States to use military force against Iran.

Headlines in the heavily state-controlled Saudi media were dominated by news of King Abdullah's ongoing physiotherapy, while the top story in the Emirati newspaper, Al Bayan, centered on Prince Mohamad bin Rashid's praise for the country's progress toward "transparency." Most mentions of the WikiLeaks documents in official Arabic news outlets were scrubbed of any reference to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing instead on U.S. attempts to control the damage to its diplomatic relations.

Even the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, considered one of the most credible pan-Arab news outlets, tread lightly in its coverage and generally refrained from repeating the most incendiary quotes from the heads of neighboring states.

According to the newly leaked documents, leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were among those privately urging the United States to strike Iranian nuclear facilities while publicly claiming to pursue a neutral foreign policy, exposing dangerous rifts between not only Arab states and Iran, but also between the Arab leadership and the people of those countries.

"I believe [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] is going to take us to war," Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan reportedly told one diplomat.

According to one cable, Saudi King Abdullah urges the United States to "cut off the head of the snake" before it is too late. In another, he suggests Guantanamo detainees be fitted with electronic tracking chips similar to the ones used for falcons and horses.

The revelations are at the very least embarrassing and potentially destabilizing in a region where American military intervention is deeply resented and collaboration with Israeli security interests is considered tantamount to betrayal.

As of Monday, the only official Arab response appeared to be from the Emirati charge d'affairs in Tehran, who refused to confirm or deny whether his country had asked the United States to attack Iran, but did say that "at the moment, Iran and the UAE are having good relations."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Screen grab: The Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News did not report comments allegedly made by Saudi officials and even King Abdullah regarding a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Credit: arabnews.com

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