The Iranian president has dismissed as psychological warfare the leaking of US diplomatic cables detailing calls for Washington to stop Iran's nuclear facilities.
Ahmadinejad calls WikiLeaks documents 'mischief'
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday dismissed as psychological warfare the leaking of US diplomatic cables detailing strident Arab calls for Washington to stop Iran's nuclear facilities.
The leaks - in which several Arab leaders also portrayed the Iranian president as mad, bad and dangerous - were mere American "mischief" that would, he claimed, have no impact on his country's "friendly" relations with regional states.
Mr Ahmadinejad even denied that the disclosures made by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks were leaks at all, insisting they were deliberately orchestrated by the US government for "political" reasons.
Iranian officials suggested the furore was designed to increase Iran's sense of isolation ahead of Tehran's long-stalled nuclear talks with major world powers that are due to resume on December 5.
"When they [western countries] say they have isolated Iran, it means that they themselves are isolated, and when they say that Iran is economically weak, it means that it has strengthened," Mr Ahmadinejad said.
The supposedly confidential documents confirm some of Tehran's worst suspicions: that it is not only Israel that has pressed the US to attack the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities but many of its Arab neighbours as well.
Indeed, the documents reveal that the US has resisted Israeli and Arab calls to go to war with Iran until it has exhausted diplomacy and sanctions to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Across the volatile region governments were struggling to respond to the embarrassing and sensational disclosures.
The first reactions were cautious and mostly bland, belying the dismay that most will have felt at seeing private discussions with US diplomats relayed in headlines by the world's media.
The leaks were variously condemned as "unhelpful", "negative" or "irresponsible", but only Turkey questioned their veracity: one document expressed grave misgivings about Turkey's dependability as a Nato ally.
Pakistan, meanwhile, was highly critical of the documents, which raised concerns that Islamic extremists there could target the country's nuclear programme in an attempt to steal a nuclear weapon or, more likely, the materials needed to build one.
And Afghanistan insisted its relations with the US would not be affected by leaked cables portraying President Hamid Karzai as weak and paranoid, and his brother as a corrupt drugs baron.
Only Israel expressed satisfaction with the leaks, saying they proved the country is not alone in its hawkish opposition to Iran's nuclear programme.
One document recounted that in a June 2009 meeting with US legislators, the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, argued that attacking Iran any later than late 2010 "would result in unacceptable collateral damage".
That unofficial deadline expires next month.
The State Department cables show that Arab leaders who are reticent to publicly criticise Iran - for fear of angering their people's or retribution from Tehran - have been urging the US in private to attack the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities before Israel does.
The website of Iran's state-run Press TV reported yesterday that Arab countries had joined Israel in describing "Tehran's peaceful nuclear programme" an "existential" threat.
It added: "Analysts believe the recent document release is a scenario carefully orchestrated by US intelligence agencies to deflect attention from the US's domestic problems, upset the situation in the region and lay the groundwork for military action against Iran."
The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshiar Zebari called the leaks "unhelpful and untimely", while refusing to comment on their content.
Washington has repeatedly insisted military action was a last resort.
The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said in one cable that any military strike on Iran would only delay its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon by one to three years.
But Washington's regional allies appear to be far more impatient.
* With addtional reporting by Tom Seibert in Istanbul, James Calderwood in Kuwait and Suha Philip Ma'ayeh in Amman