TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel's prime minister said Monday that newly leaked U.S. diplomatic memos provide clear proof that the Arab world agrees with his country's assessment that Iran is the chief danger to the Middle East.
According to the documents released Sunday by online whistle-blower Wikileaks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program. The king is just one of many Arab voices in the documents calling for tough action against Iran – proof that Israel is not alone in its belief that Tehran is a growing menace to the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"The greatest threat to world peace stems from the arming of the regime in Iran. More and more states, governments and leaders in the Middle East and in far reaches of the world understand this is a fundamental threat," Netanyahu told a news conference.
He also suggested that a unified front with Arab nations against Iran could bring a "breakthrough" in efforts to bring peace to the region.
Israel has long considered Iran the top danger in the Middle East, citing its development of medium-range missiles capable of striking Israel, its support for militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and most critically, its suspect nuclear program. The West, and many Arab countries, believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies that.
An April 2008 memo detailed a meeting between General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, and then U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and King Abdullah and other Saudi princes.
At the meeting, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir "recalled the king's frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program," the cable said.
"He told you to cut off the head of the snake," al-Jubeir was reported to have said.
The documents also said officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran's nuclear program to be stopped by any means and that leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran "as `evil,' an `existential threat' and a power that `is going to take us to war.'"
Although the concerns of Gulf Arab states about Iran are known, the leaders of these conservative countries rarely offer such stark appraisals in public.
Netanyahu said it's clear that other countries in the region share Israel's assessment about Iran, "even if what they say in public is not what they always so in private."
If "leaders will say in public what they say in private there might be a breakthrough," he added. "Leaders should be ready to tell their people the truth."