WIKILEAKS REVELATIONS: MORE GOOD THAN BAD?
LEE SMITH'S BRIEFING TO THE MIDDLE EAST FORUM
By Alessandra Grace
According to Mr. Smith, the Wikilieaks have some positive aspects revealing an interesting dynamic in the Middle East. While many define the Middle East according to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the leaked cables expose an "Arab Cold War" paradigm crucial to understanding the region. For example, the concerns of our allies in the Gulf, as well as Jordan and Egypt, towards the Iranian nuclear program are proof of a more complex situation. Mr. Smith suggests that this is positive; for starters, it evidences that the actions of Middle East actors are determined by considerations far beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict — even if the latter gets most of the attention.
Mr. Smith finds the argument that the Wikileaks make the U.S.A. look weak and incompetent only partly true. Many in the region, he points out, assume the U.S.A. is always behind its actions, and therefore believe that, not only was American intelligence behind Wikileaks, but the information was intentionally leaked to benefit the U.S.A.
The most problematic implication of the Wikileaks, Mr. Smith remarked, is that they have "muddied" the flow of information. For instance, a Beirut-based newspaper, Al Akhbar, ran a series of supposed Wikileak cables that were extremely damaging to U.S. allies in Lebanon and extremely helpful to Hezbollah, Tehran, and Damascus; even so, it is unclear how many of these were authentic. As a result, Wikileaks, he argued, have introduced the possibility of information fabrication in the future to serve the interests of U.S. adversaries.
During the question-and-answer period, Mr. Smith was asked what the most shocking pieces of information Wikileaks revealed about specific countries. He stated that, while many merely confirmed things already suspected, the Wikileaks provide insight on Turkey, for example. Since 9/11, Washington has applauded Turkey as being a paradigm of democracy and Islam, leading to the assumption that the U.S. State Department was being misled regarding Turkey and the AKP Party, as many have argued. Thus the Wikileaks indicate that Washington does, in fact, have a clearer understanding of Turkey, despite what is publicly stated.
Mr. Smith concluded that the Wikileaks prove that one can understand the region by relying on open source material — as Daniel Pipes also pointed out. In short, the Wikileaks ultimately "confirmed the general picture that we had of the region before."
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American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
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Currently, Alessandra Grace is International Affairs Research Intern at the Middle East Forum. Recently (May-August, 2010), Miss Grace served as Research Intern at Middle East Media Research Institute, focusing on homegrown terrorism and terrorist recruitment methods. Earlier (January-May, 2010), she worked as Intern in the Office of Congressman Trent Franks (Republican - Arizona). From May through August, 2008, she served as Legal Intern for the law partnership, Jennings, Strous & Salmon. From June through July, she worked as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Miss Grace's education includes the study of Political Science and the Arabic language at Bryn Mawr College (2007-2011), Alexandria University (2009), and American University in Cairo (2009).
The foregoing article by Alessandra Grace was originally published in the Middle East Forum News, January 6, 2011, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (URL: http://www.meforum.org/2815/wikileaks- revelations)
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