‘Year zero of modern era’: WikiLeaks releases more than 500k US diplomatic cables from 1979

Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks. © Axel Schmidt
WikiLeaks has released more than half a million US diplomatic cables from 1979, covering numerous incidents such as the Iranian revolution, the siege of Mecca, and Saddam Hussein becoming president of Iraq.

Consisting of 531,525 cables, the latest batch - known as ‘Carter Cables III’ – marks the six-year anniversary of ‘Cablegate’, when WikiLeaks released classified cables sent to the US State Department, revealing assessments of countries and details of eavesdropping.

“If any year could be said to be the ‘year zero’ of our modern era, 1979 is it,” Julian Assange wrote in a statement on the WikiLeaks website. "In 1979 it seemed as if the blood would never stop. Dozens of countries saw assassinations, coups, revolts, bombings, political kidnappings and wars of liberation."

"The invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR would see Saudi Arabia and the CIA push billions of dollars to Mujahideen fighters as part of Operation Cyclone, fomenting the rise of al-Qaeda and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union," Assange said. 

"The rise of al-Qaeda eventually bore the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, enabling the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and over a decade of war, leaving, at its end, the ideological, financial and geographic basis for ISIS."

The election of Margaret Thatcher as British Prime Minister and the Three Mile Island nuclear incident are some of the incidents during the year cited by Assange.

Also included in the cables are new documents on the Irish Republican Army (IRA), who in 1979 killed Lord Mountbatten, cousin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. His death is discussed in the newly-released cables.

Other subjects covered in the cables include the Iranian hostage crisis, which saw 66 Americans taken hostage after 3,000 Iranian students raided the US embassy in Tehran.

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This release brings to 3.3 million the number of US diplomatic cables published as part of the WikiLeaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PLUSD), the world's largest searchable collection of United States confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.