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WikiLeaks builds case against Iran

By David Frum, CNN Contributor
  • David Frum: WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables will embarrass many
  • He says cables show Arab nations have grave concerns about Iran nuclear capability
  • Frum: Disclosures make U.S. military action against Iran more feasible
  • Tune in to "Larry King Live," Monday at 9 p.m. ET, for more on the WikiLeaks documents

Editor's note: David Frum writes a weekly column for A special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002, he is the author of six books, including "Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again," and is the editor of FrumForum.

Washington (CNN) -- Some say that the WikiLeaks document dump has embarrassed the United States government.

Agreed -- it is probably no fun to be the U.S. official in charge of calling Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to admit that our government noticed his Russian business dealings.

But here's who really should be embarrassed:

• Those who pooh-poohed George W. Bush's "axis of evil." WikiLeaks confirms that Iran and North Korea have for years been sharing weapons technology.

• Those who suggest that it's some "Israel lobby" or Jewish cabal that is driving the confrontation with Iran. WikiLeaks confirms that the region's Arab governments express even more anxiety than Israel about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

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• Those who have condemned Israel for inspecting or impeding Red Crescent ambulances. WikiLeaks confirms that during the 2006 Lebanon war, Iran smuggled weapons to Hezbollah in Red Crescent vehicles, including ambulances.

• Those who have appeased Red Crescent demands that Israel's Red Magen David be excluded from international Red Cross organizations. The Red Crescent has been thoroughly penetrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is regularly used as a tool of Iranian foreign policy.

• Those who lamented that Israel's interception of the Turkish blockade-runner Mevi Marmara would alienate Turkey as a key U.S. ally: The U.S. government itself has for years regarded the Turkish government as trending on its own impetus toward anti-Western Islamist radicalism.

• Those who look blank-faced at the origin of cyber-attacks on Google and other crucial U.S. networks. WikiLeaks documents U.S. awareness that at least one cyber-attack on Google was ordered at the highest levels of the Chinese government.

This is not to deny that WikiLeaks has done enormous harm. The leakers or hackers or whoever it was who obtained and published this information have put individual lives at risk. Toby Harnden of the Telegraph notes that one of the released documents names a U.S. informant in the region. The document identifies him as a U.K.-educated engineer from a prominent pre-revolution Isfahan family who once owned a large factory in Iran and is a former national fencing champion of Iran, a former president of the Iran Fencing Association and a former vice president of an Azerbaijan sports association. Harnden aptly asks: How many such persons do you think are out there?

But here's the ghastliest irony of the leak. If it was Julian Assange's intention to use information hacked from U.S. computer systems to protect Iran from U.S. military action, he has very likely massively failed at his own purpose.

The leak makes military conflict between Iran and the United States more likely, not less. The leak has changed the political equation in ways that reduce the restraint on U.S. policy.

Revealing secrets online

Public opinion in all U.S.-allied countries can now see that the dread of the Iranian nuclear program is not some artificial emotion whipped up by Israel, but a widespread fear among Arab and European governments. It's Iran's Gulf neighbors who have begged most urgently that the United States hit Iran's nuclear sites.

Iranian recklessness and duplicity has been widely publicized -- as has Iran's contemptuous rejection of all diplomatic approaches.

President Obama's hand has been strengthened inside the United States. Members of Congress can see the intimate details of the administration's determined effort to restrain Iran by peaceful means. And they can see in equally intimate detail that the effort has failed, and failed entirely because of Iran's obduracy.

If any doubt remains that a nuclear Iran would massively destabilize the region, WikiLeaks alleviates it: It's there in black and white, according to Israeli sources, that Saudi Arabia would seek a nuclear weapon. And it's a good question whether an increasingly anti-Western Turkey would likely soon pursue a nuclear weapon too.

I am not saying that a U.S. attack on Iran has suddenly become likely. Just that it has become more politically feasible than it was 72 hours ago.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Frum.

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