Wikileaks exposes Saudi fear Iran shipped nuclear equipment to Sudan

Wikileaks provided an unusual level of insight into day-to-day Saudi diplomacy in its operations against Iran in the region. 

Iran Bushehr plant

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant. (AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Saudi diplomats in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, believed Iran shipped advanced nuclear equipment including centrifuges to Sudan in 2012, this according to a suadi diplomatic cable exposed by WikiLeaks last Friday.

In document said to a cable from the embassy and marked “very secret,” the Saudis warn: “The embassy’s sources advised that Iranian containers arrived this week at Khartoum airport containing sensitive technical equipment in the form of fast centrifuges for enriching uranium, and a second shipment is expected to arrive this week.”

No further information or evidence on the shipment was provided. This is the first known report on Iran sending nuclear equipment to Sudan, which has no known nuclear program.

An Iranian official declined to comment and Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment.

A Sudanese munitions factory was destroyed in a mysterious explosion in October 2012, eight months after the date on the cable, an explosion the Sudanese government blamed the Israeli Air Force (IAF) for. There are no indications that the factory was nuclear linked.

This cable is one of thousands of documents published by WikiLeaks, only the first batch of what the transparency group says will be a much larger release. They have already provided an unusual level of insight into day-to-day Saudi diplomacy — giving a snapshot of the lavish spending habits of senior royals and the political intrigue percolating across the Middle East.

WikiLeaks so far has published roughly 60,000 documents. The organization has a long track record of hosting large leaks of government material, and in a statement released late Saturday the Saudi government acknowledged its diplomatic servers had been penetrated ahead of the mass disclosure. However, they also said the documents might be faked and did not comment on specific documents.

Many of the Saudi documents appear aimed at tracking Iranian activity across the region or undermining Tehran’s interests. An undated memo apparently sent from the Saudi Embassy in Tehran made note of what it called the “frustration of the Iranian citizen and his strong desire for regime change,” and suggested ways to publicly expose Iran’s social grievances through “the Internet, social media like Facebook and Twitter.” It also suggests “hosting opposition figures overseas, coordinating with them and encouraging them to use galleries to show pictures of torture carried by the Iranian regime against people.”

The Saudis also kept a watchful eye on Iran’s friends, real or perceived. One 2012 memo warned that Iran was getting “flirting American messages” suggesting that the US had no objections to a peaceful Iranian nuclear program so long as it had guarantees, “possibly Russian ones.”

Another memo, dated to 2012, accuses the United Arab Emirates of helping Russia and Iran circumvent international sanctions. A third memo, marked “top secret,” alleges that Iranian fighter jets bombed South Sudanese forces during a 2012 standoff over the oil-rich area of Heglig.

AP contributed to this report.