In a bit of spy vs. spy, the U.S. consulate in Istanbul reported in September 2009 that several of its contacts "have separately cautioned us in the past week that they have been asked (or warned) by Iranian officials to cease contact 'with American diplomats asking questions about Iran'."
This "reconfirms that the regime pays attention to our outreach efforts outside Iran," the cable continued. "In response, we will take additional steps to protect local contacts and stay vigilant against regime efforts to track our interactions with them."
The Iran watchers' reporting provided no hint that the country would erupt into crises after the June 2009 election, which opposition leaders claim Ahmadinejad stole. In the aftermath, the cables convey a wide range of prevailing theories about who was behind the apparent electoral fraud, and which Iranian leaders would come out on top.
One constant theme is pleas to U.S. officials from Iranians unhappy with their system to focus more on human rights abuses and less on Iran's nuclear program — a shift that critics say Obama undertook belatedly.
But mostly the cables are an avalanche of information: on why Iran scotched the visit of the U.S. badminton team; on Iran's planned car exports to Turkey; on how a single Iranian company controls the market for Iranian pilgrimages to the Shiite Muslim shrine in Karbala, Iraq.
In a cable sent to U.S. diplomatic posts in Latin America on Jan. 23, 2009, two days after she took office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton peppered diplomats with at least 75 specific questions comprising nearly 1,400 words on Iran's attempts to expand its role in that region.
"What does Tehran see as the ultimate goal of Iran's outreach to Latin America? How high a priority is Latin America for Iranian foreign policy?" Clinton asked. "Who in Tehran is pushing Iran's outreach to Latin America?"
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