The release of more than 250,000 US embassy cables by WikiLeaks reveals previously secret information on American intelligence gathering, and political and military strategy.
Here's a short summary:
• Saudi Arabia put pressure on the US to attack Iran. Other Arab allies also secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.
• China is ready to accept Korean unification and is distancing itself from North Korea which it describes as behaving like a "spoiled child". Cables say Kim Jong-il is a "flabby old chap" losing his grip and drinking.
• An official from the Commonwealth secretariat claimed Prince Charles is not respected in the same way as the Queen and questioned whether the heir apparent should necessarily succeed his mother as the head of the Commonwealth.
• US and British diplomats fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme could lead to terrorists obtaining fissile material, or a devastating nuclear exchange with India. Also, small teams of US special forces have been operating secretly inside Pakistan's tribal areas, with Pakistani government approval. And the US concluded that Pakistani troops were responsible for a spate of extra-judicial killings in the Swat Valley and tribal belt, but decided not to comment publicly.
• Russia is a "virtual mafia state" with rampant corruption and scant separation between the activities of the government and organised crime.
•Rampant government corruption in Afghanistan is revealed by the cables, including an incident last year when the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash.
•Gordon Brown was written off as prime minister by the US embassy in London a year into his premiership. It concluded that an "abysmal track record" had left him lurching from "political disaster to disaster".
•US diplomats have reported suspicions that Silvio Berlusconi could be "profiting personally and handsomely" from secret deals with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin
•The British Foreign Office misled parliament over the plight of thousands of islanders who were expelled from their Indian Ocean homeland – the British colony of Diego Garcia – to make way for a large US military base.
•A scandal involving foreign contractors employed to train Afghan policemen who took drugs and paid for young "dancing boys" to entertain them in northern Afghanistan caused such panic that the interior minister begged the US embassy to try to "quash" the story, according a US embassy cable.
•The US military has been charging its allies a 15% handling fee on hundreds of millions of dollars being raised internationally to build up the Afghan army. Germany has threatened to cancel contributions, raising concerns that money is going to the US treasury.
•The US has lost faith in the Mexican army's ability to win the country's drugs war, branding it slow, clumsy and no match for "sophisticated" narco-traffickers.
• Hillary Clinton wanted a briefing on the mental health of Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner and asked whether she was taking medication to calm her down.
•Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Colombia's Álvaro Uribe "almost came to blows" at a Latin America unity summit, according to a US memo, which described it as "the worst expression of banana republic discourse".
• US diplomats spied on UN. Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
• King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly asks America to attack Iran to stop its nuclear programme.
US diplomats on Putin and Medvedev: Putin and Medvedev – Mr Alpha Dog and his poodle – are jailers of the regime but they are also its inmates. Putin is described as an "alpha dog" running a state dominated by the security services, while Medvedev is pale, hesitant and "Robin to Putin's Batman"...
Russian prime minister condemns cable describing him and President Dmitry Medvedev as Batman and Robin. "The truth of the matter is, this is about our interaction, which is an important factor of the domestic policies in this country," he said. "But to be honest with you, we didn't suspect that this would be done with such arrogance, with such a push and, you know, being so unethically done." Putin also dismissed an assessment by the US defence secretary, Robert Gates – revealed in the WikiLeaks documents – that "Russian democracy has disappeared".
US diplomats on Angela Merkel: German chancelor Merkel is described as an enigma, and sceptical about the US.
US diplomats on Nicolas Sarkozy: A series of classified US memos depict the French president as a self-absorbed, thin-skinned, erratic character who tyrannises his ministers and staff. He is portrayed as undiplomatic, hyperactive, sometimes uncouth and in need of careful handling, despite being the most pro-US French president since the second world war and a brilliant political tactician.
US diplomats on Karzai: Diplomats describe Afghan president as weak, indecisive, erratic, emotional, prone to believing paranoid conspiracy theories and beholden to criminals to maintain power. The current US ambassador, Karl Eikenberry identified two competing personalities in Karzai. "The first is a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation-building and overly self-conscious that his time in the spotlight of glowing reviews from the international community has passed. The other is that of an ever-shrewd politician who sees himself as a nationalist hero who can save the country from being divided by the decentralisation-focused agenda of Abdullah [Karzai's main rival in the 2009 election]."
The persecution of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
by Joseph Kishore
The American state, its spokesmen in the mass media, and its allies around the world are engaged in an international campaign of vilification and persecution against WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange. This campaign has nothing to do with any supposed crime he has committed, since he has committed none. He is the target of an international manhunt for his role in lifting the lid on the lies and criminal operations of imperialist powers the world over—above all, in the United States. The Obama administration has branded the leakers, as well as WikiLeaks, “criminals,” with the US attorney general pledged to “close the gap” by inventing a pseudo-legal basis for prosecution if one does not exist at present. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and ex-military officials have demanded the death penalty for Manning, while Sarah Palin has insisted that WikiLeaks be branded a terrorist organization. Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to the Canadian prime minister, declared that Assange should be “assassinated,” that Obama should “put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.” And the fact that Assange is a citizen of Australia did not prevent Julia Gillard, the prime minister of that country, from declaring, without any evidence, that Assange’s actions were “illegal,” while placing her government at the service of the US witch-hunt. Assange faces the immediate threat of arrest on the basis of trumped-up charges in Sweden. On Thursday, Swedish authorities obtained a new arrest warrant on alleged sexual misconduct charges—invariably, and falsely, described in the mass media as “rape.” The charges were initially considered so specious that the prosecutor ordered them dropped (Swedish prosecutors charge that while Mr. Assange did have consentual sex with his two accusers, he allegedly did not use a condom, which is against Swedish law. Rape is a serious crime that traumatizes and violates women. Therefore the charges of rape against someone in Sweden who neglected to use condoms makes one wonder "why" and "how." ) . This decision was reversed, however, and Sweden on Thursday submitted a warrant to Interpol. If the actions of WikiLeaks have helped reveal, in real time, the lies of the American government, they have also exposed the role of the chief propagators of these lies: the American media. For decades, the US government has cultivated the media to the point where it engages in self-censorship as a matter of course. There can be no doubt that the WikiLeaks revelations will provide further impetus to the campaign by the US government to assert greater control over online networks. The WikiLeaks web site has already been the target of repeated denial of service attacks, of suspicious origin. In an attempt to get WikiLeaks back online, the organization rented servers from Amazon. On Wednesday, Amazon blocked WikiLeaks from using its servers, apparently under pressure from US officials. The state persecution of Assange—enthusiastically backed by the mass media—is one expression of a far-reaching decay of democracy in the United States and internationally. World governments, led by the United States, are carrying out deeply unpopular policies—the multi-trillion dollar bailout of financial institutions, relentless demands for social austerity and the expanding war and global plunder. The constant proclamations about the need for secrecy, which WikiLeaks has violated by publishing government documents, arises fundamentally from the irreconcilable conflict between the social interests that these governments represent and the needs and aspirations of the vast majority of the population. The persecution of Assange in an effort to silence this exposure is not simply a threat to one individual. The methods employed against WikiLeaks will be used against all opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial aristocracy. the hysterical witch-hunt against Assange and WikiLeaks is not any sign of strength on the part of the American ruling elite and its state, but rather of fear and weakness...