Iran’s Gulf Neighbors Stress ‘Peaceful’ Settlement of Nuclear Issue After WikiLeaks Disclosures

By Patrick Goodenough | December 8, 2010 | 5:04 AM EST

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Abdullah bin Zayed, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, at the State Department in April 2009. The UAE and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council ended a summit on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010 by emphasizing a peaceful settlement of the Iran nuclear standoff. (Photo: State Department/Michael Gross)

(’s Arab neighbors used a summit in Abu Dhabi this week to reiterate the need for a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, after recently leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealed a deep distrust of Tehran among Gulf states – and some appeals for military action.

Leaders of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ended their two-day meeting in the Emirati city Tuesday with a communique that, in relation to Iran, emphasized “good neighborly relations, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs and resolving disputes through peaceful means and non-use of force or threats.”

GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.

Leading figures in the first four of those countries were cited in classified State Department documents released by WikiLeaks as expressing far stronger views in private about the need for a tough response to Iran than those their governments have ever made in public.

The communique released Tuesday did voice “great concern” about the nuclear issue, but urged Iran to respond to international efforts to resolve the crisis “through peaceful means.”

At a press conference after the summit, GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman al-Atiyyah of Qatar said the contents of the leaked U.S. cables had “generated misunderstandings” and “cannot be taken seriously.”

The UAE daily The National quoted him as describing the material in some of the documents as “guesses and analyses that can hit or miss.”

At the same press conference, UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed called for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear dispute, saying that if Iran was open with the International Atomic Energy Agency about its activities “it will be a much more important and effective member of the region.”

“We want the [U.N.] Security Council to go back and end the sanctions on Iran, but we want Iran to help in this as well,” he said.

Earlier during the summit Kuwait’s Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, told the gathered leaders that the Iran issue should be resolved “through dialogue and peaceful means.”

The emphasis on a peaceful resolution contrasted with the language cited in some of the leaked State Department documents published over the past week.

In one, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – the man in line to become president of the UAE – is quoted as asking an American general in 2005 whether it would be possible to use air power to “take out” all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. When told that that was unlikely given their wide dispersal, the prince was quoted in the cable as having responded, “Then it will take ground forces!”

Another cable cites Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah as telling a U.S. envoy early this year that Iran “will only be deterred from achieving its objectives – including a nuclear weapons capability – by force.”

Bahrain’s King Hamad was quoted as warning U.S. Gen. David  Petraeus in 2009 that “the danger of letting it [Iran’s nuclear program] go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” and a Saudi diplomat was cited as recalling that Saudi King Abdullah had frequently exhorted “the U.S. to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program.”

The U.S. government, while declining to comment on the content of the stolen documents, has made it clear that cable messages submitted by diplomatic missions are “not policy.”

Member states of the 29 year-old GCC have historically had cool relations with Iran and strong ties to the U.S., which has military bases in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow