WikiLeaks: Top 5 revelations

The newest WikiLeaks release comprises 251,287 cables from more than 250 United States embassies around the world, including thousands classified "Secret." With historical cables dating back to the 1960s, the trove is seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs," making it the world's largest classified information release.

The New York Times, Der Spiegel, El País, the Guardian, and Le Monde had early access to the logs. According to their analysis of the myriad issues discussed in the cables, these five are among the most striking revelations.

How the US sees the world

The leaked cables provide a stark assessment of world leaders. French President Nicolas Sarkozy "has a thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style" and is an "emperor with no clothes." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like "Hitler." North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is a "flabby old chap" who suffers from "physical and psychological trauma."

The cover of Germany's leading news magazine, Der Spiegel, shows images of world leaders captioned with Washington's impression of each. Britain's Daily Mail provides a run-down of what America thinks of leaders around the world, saying the leaks had plunged the US "into an unprecedented diplomatic crisis."

But despite the raw assessments revealed by WikiLeaks, analysts do not foresee any lasting damage to international relationships, reported Reuters. French government spokesman François Baroin pledged to support the US. "We are very supportive of the American administration in its efforts to avoid what not only damages countries' authority and the quality of their services, but also endangers men and women working to defend their country," Mr. Baroin told Europe 1 Radio.

US diplomats ordered to spy on UN

In July 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a classified directive for officials to obtain detailed information on United Nations officials and diplomats, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Guardian says the directive "appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying." It asks for credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, phone, fax, and pager numbers, even frequent-flyer account numbers, and a host of other details on electronic passwords and communications. A primary motive appears to be obtaining information on the plans and policies of European allies, including Britain, France, and Germany vis-à-vis Iran, according to Der Spiegel.

Here is a full copy of the July 2009 order, courtesy of the Guardian.

The British newspaper – one of five publications given advance access to the WikiLeaks files – says "the directive is likely to spark questions about the legality of the operation and about whether state department diplomats are expected to spy."

The directive possibly violates the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities. But State Department spokesman Philip Crowley denied that US diplomats have assumed a new role, reports The New York Times. “Our diplomats are just that, diplomats,” he said.

China hacked Google, US, and Dalai Lama

US officials believe that Chinese operatives hacked into Google, the computers of US officials, and the online communications of the Dalai Lama.

Google announced in January that it had been the victim of cyberattacks emanating from China, though it did not directly blame China. The WikiLeaks cables reveal that, all the while, the United States believed the cyberattacks came on orders from the Chinese Politburo.

According to The New York Times, which was one of five news organizations given early access to the Wikileaks cache, "China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts, and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government."

According to the Guardian, the cyberattack was ordered by one particular senior Politburo member "who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally."

The assessment is stark, but the information is not revelatory. In January, the Monitor reported that hackers in China operated with meticulous organization and high-level sophistication beyond the level of amateurs, with former US officials and independent analysts pointing the finger at the Chinese government.

Arab allies asked US to attack Iran

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly implored Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there is still time, according to diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks. The United Arab Emirates’ defense chief told the US in 2005 to take action against Iran “this year or next." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has warned the US, of Iran, "don't believe a word they say."

According to The New York Times, "the cables reveal how Iran’s ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries — notably the Saudis — in a common cause. Publicly, these Arab states held their tongues, for fear of a domestic uproar and the retributions of a powerful neighbor. Privately, they clamored for strong action — by someone else."

The animosity is rooted in the Muslim sectarian divide between Shiites who rule Iran and Sunnis who dominate the region. In addition, the cables say that Iran has obtained 19 North Korean BM-25 missiles with a range sufficient to hit western Europe.

The Monitor reports that Israel feels bolstered by new proof that its Arab neighbors support the hard-line approach it has long pressured the US to take. But that doesn't mean the US is now likely to push for a military option, says BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds.

"What the documents show in fact is not that the US secretly wants to go to war with Iran but that it has resisted pressure to do so from Israel and Arab leaders acting out of a coincidental common interest. This is very much in line with President Barack Obama's public diplomacy, which is to engage with Iran and, if necessary, to impose sanctions to try to get it to stop its nuclear activities. This it has done and the documents agree."

For his part, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the secret cables were purposefully released by the US government, reported the state-run Press TV.

US seeking to remove uranium from Pakistan

Since 2007, the US has mounted a secret effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani reactor, according to a leaked cable released by WikiLeaks.

According to The New York Times, "since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device." Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn reports that the cables reveal “grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program."

Security analyst Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood told the Monitor that the WikiLeaks revelations will prove a boon to hard-liners in Pakistan.

“It really reinforces [what until now] has been a conspiracy theory – that America has always been after nuclear assets and gives a big handle to the right and those who have been saying America is not a our friend and saying they are following a dual policy: with India they are friends but with Pakistan they are trying to simultaneously undermine us," he said.