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December 14, 2010

ACNIS HOLDS SPECIAL PRESENTATION ON WIKILEAKS

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) held  a special briefing today on “WikiLeaks” with an analysis of the implications of the release of thousands of formerly confidential and secret U.S. State Department cables and documents.  ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian provided a brief overview of “WikiLeaks,” including an objective assessment of how and why so many confidential and secret documents were publicly disclosed.  He then assessed the implications for U.S. foreign policy in the region, with a specific focus on U.S. diplomacy toward Armenia, Nagorno Karabagh, Azerbaijan, and provided an analysis of U.S. policy toward Russia, Turkey and Iran in the wake of the massive disclosure.

ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian explained that “WikiLeaks” is a non-profit media organization “dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public,” seeking to “provide a secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists.”  Their official mission is to “publish material of ethical, political and historical significance” and to “reveal suppressed and censored injustices,” he added.

Giragosian noted that WikiLeaks has already become famous before this latest release, stating that in April 2010, WikiLeaks released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in Baghdad and, in July 2010, released a large set of documents, entitled “War Diary: Afghanistan War Logs,” followed by a similar package of documents, entitled “War Diary: Iraq War Logs,” released in October 2010.

He added that these latest leaks were very well organized, as WikiLeaks is working with four prominent media organizations: “The Guardian” in Britain, “Le Monde” in France, “El Pais” in Spain, and “Der Spiegel” in Germany.  “The Guardian” has shared the material with “The New York Times” and the five newspapers have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release, what redactions to make, and when to publish, Giragosian explained.

The ACNIS director then detailed how this latest “leak of information” developed.  Beginning on 28 November 2010, “WikiLeaks” began publishing over 250,000 leaked U.S. embassy cables, aimed at providing “an unprecedented insight into the US Government's foreign activities.”  The cables, which date from 1966 through the end of February 2010, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the U.S. State Department in Washington.

Giragosian stressed that “this was really nothing new, as throughout history, all nations have sought to uncover the secrets of other countries.  In American history, the most famous case involving the release of secrets was when Daniel Ellsberg released the “Pentagon Papers,” a detailed record of military and strategic planning during the war in Vietnam.  What was different this time, however, was the sheer scale of the documents represents something new and more important, and the use of new technology (Internet, cyber security, etc.) was also something new.”  In this sense, he stressed, “WikiLeaks is only the platform, and not the source of these documents.”

He then explained that the released documents included US State Department cables covering a broad period, from 1966 to February 2010 and originating from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.  Giragosian then noted that Iraq was the most discussed country, and Ankara, Turkey was the most active producer.

Giragosian then assessed the implications for U.S. foreign policy in the region, with a specific focus on U.S. diplomacy toward Armenia, Nagorno Karabagh, Azerbaijan. For Armenia, the most serious disclosure was the discovery by U.S. intelligence that Armenia had transferred Bulgarian missiles and rockets to Iran, according to a December 2008 cable from the U.S. Secretary of State.  Those weapons were later “recovered from militant attacks in which a U.S. soldier was killed and six others were injured in Iraq,” according to a January 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.

After Armenia’s alleged transfer of arms to Iran, then-Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte made it clear in a confidential letter to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan that Armenia must agree to allow U.S. inspectors to drop in unannounced, or the little country would face “the cutoff of U.S. assistance and certain export restrictions.”  In a later January 2010 cable, the head of the Armenian National Security Service, Chairman Gorik Hakobyan, assured the U.S. that Armenia planned to comply with all U.S. demands, noting that “Armenia has a lot of problems and there is no desire to create more problems.”

Following his presentation, the participants then engaged in a lively question and answer period, before ending with a constructive discussion.


The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

 
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