Leaked Iraq Documents Cause Neither Shock nor Awe in Arab World

It seems that the real task of the U.S. administration will be in the realm of American public opinion, rather than the Arab governments and people.

"In light of the new facts uncovered in the documents released by WikiLeaks, I call on the United States to immediately withdraw all its forces from Iraq and to prosecute all those who perpetrated war crimes against Iraqi civilians." No, this was not a statement issued by the prime minister of Iraq, or his rival. Nor did Saudi Arabia announce a cancelation of its enormous U.S. arms deal, worth $60 billion. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not announce an end to U.S. peace mediation as a result of Saturday's disclosures. Nor will Pakistan renounce the $2 billion in aid it receives from the superpower that is responsible for the deaths of Pakistani civilians.

Arab television networks and Internet sites on Saturday settled for offering detailed reports on technical aspects of the documents while pundits noted, almost indifferently, that there is little new in the information. Iraqi civilians have known the contents of the documents for some time. Details of the roles of Iran and Hezbollah in the war in Iraq had been reported in the past by Arab media outlets.

Wikileaks - AFP - Oct 24, 2010

The civilian casualty figures in the documents are not taken as final. The Iraqi authorities and Arab analysts estimate that the true number of civilian casualties is 50 percent above those mentioned in the documents.

It seems that the real task of the U.S. administration will be in the realm of American public opinion, rather than the Arab governments and people. It is hard to imagine that the Iraqi leadership or the Arab public in general will be very shocked by the new disclosures, not after the reports of the abuse at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo, as well as in the first batch of WikiLeak documents and their revelations about the activities of the U.S. army in Afghanistan.

Even before the initial impact of the news has hit home, analysts are quick to note the danger of Iranian involvement in Iraq and the fact that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is expending much effort in building a coalition under his leadership, was party to the murders, while making no mention of the threat to U.S. standing in the region.

There are too many economic and military interests between the United States and Iraq and other states in the region for documents that describe a known reality to suddenly lead the locals to force out the Americans.

The political situation in Iraq, in which there is no government eight months after elections, and where Iran has the greatest influence on the expected composition of the government means the Gulf states see the United States as the guarantor of regional safety.

At a time when the United States is viewed as the sole agent capable of influencing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have no interest in undermining America's standing.

Iran will certainly try to make the most of the reports on the documents, especially in accusing the United States government of sponsoring terror. It will be very interesting to see how Turkey will respond, and whether it will call the American actions "war crimes" or state-sponsored terrorism, as it does with Israel. As for Israel, the documents offer it "insurance" in the future: After all, if the United States can do it, then so can Israel.