Friend and foe alike of the United States heaped scorn Monday on WikiLeaks’ mass release of secret US diplomatic cables, saying the revelations undermined global diplomacy and made the world less secure.
“This will weaken diplomacy around the world. It will weaken diplomacy in general, but first and foremost American diplomacy. I see this rather as something that is making the world less safe,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.
The object of much of the diplomatic discussion revealed by the website, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dismissed the documents as “worthless mischief” which would not affect Tehran’s relations with its Arab neighbours, exposed as having pressed for a US military strike against its nuclear sites.
France condemned the leaks as “irresponsible” and described them as “an attack on states’ sovereignty.”
Paris said the documents “could harm the resolution of matters essential for the security and stability of international relations and jeopardize people’s security,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Elysee Palace said it would not be making any comment on the leaked documents, in which Sarkozy is portrayed by a US diplomat as “thin-skinned and authoritarian.”
Britain slammed the release as damaging to national security, but said it will continue to work closely with Washington.
British newspaper The Guardian, which has begun publishing the documents along with several other media outlets worldwide, says that upcoming memos give “embarrassing” US views of Prime Minister David Cameron and “weak” ex-leader Gordon Brown.
The diplomatic cables also contain disparaging comments about Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“A few gossipy comments about European politicians are not exactly welcome but they are not really important. But in other cases, people’s lives could be put at risk,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters.
Westerwelle, who said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned him on Friday to express her “deep regret” about the leaks, said that the documents released so far contained inaccuracies.
“The German-American relationship is mature, it has grown so robust over the decades, it is such a deep friendship based on shared values that it will not be seriously damaged by this publication,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Ahmadinejad told a press conference broadcast live on state TV that “the documents that they released are a mischief. We do not see any value in them. This act is worthless.”
“We are friends with the regional countries and mischievous acts will not affect relations,” he said.
Israel, which has long waged a diplomatic war on Tehran, said the releases merely proved its concerns about a nuclear Iran were shared across the Arab world.
The documents showed that Saudi Arabia had repeatedly urged a US military strike to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“The Arab countries are pushing the United States towards military action more forcefully than Israel,” said an Israeli official.
Experts said the leaks would likely change the way diplomats worked.
“The scale of the leaks is impressive, and we can’t help but ask whether that will change way diplomats write their telegrams in future,” said Pascal Boniface, of the Institute of Strategic and International Relations.
“Perhaps it calls into question the whole idea of the diplomatic cable? It’s a hard blow for the United States. It’s diplomatically embarrassing, not a major diplomatic defeat, but it exposes them in a negative way.”
In Stockholm, Bildt, a former UN special envoy for the Balkans, “there is a need for confidential communication between different governments … to be able to handle crises and difficult situations. We are not going to be able to have that now.”
“Then we will be stuck with megaphone diplomacy, which I know from experience can lead to more conflicts and more problems.”