Today, 28th November 2016, marking the six year anniversiary of “Cablegate”, WikiLeaks expands its Public Library of US Diplomacy (PLUSD) with over half a million (531,525) diplomatic cables from 1979.
If any year could be said to be the “year zero” of our modern era, 1979 is it.
In the Middle East, the Iranian revolution, the Saudi Islamic uprising and the Egypt-Israel Camp David accord led not only to the present regional power dynamic but decisively changed the relationship between oil, militant Islam and the world.
The uprising at Mecca permanently shifted Saudi Arabia towards Wahhabism, leading to the transnational spread of Islamic fundamentalism and the US-Saudi destabilisation of Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden would leave his native Saudi Arabia for Pakistan to support the Afghan Mujahideen.
The invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR would see Saudi Arabia and the CIA push billions to Mujahideen fighters as part of Operation Cyclone, fomenting the rise of al-Qaeda and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.
The 1979 current of Islamification spread to Pakistan where the US embassy was burned to the ground and Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed.
The Iranian hostage crisis would go on to fatally undermine Jimmy Carter’s presidency and see the election of Ronald Reagan.
Saddam Hussein? Took power in 1979.
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 Iranian revolution and Saddam Hussein’s rise to power and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war would connect with the 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua to produce the Iran-Contra affair and the indictment of 12 US administration officials including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
Elsewhere, Thatcher won in the UK, Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Idi Amin fled Uganda and the ANC made the decision to militarily resist Apartheid.
In the United States, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident led to a turning away from the construction and development of new nuclear reactors, increasing the reliance on oil and coal for decades.
While the 1979 SALT II agreements made some progress in reducing the risk of nuclear war, nuclear preparations and testing were stepped up elsewhere. The US decided to place Pershing and Cruise missiles in Europe and a South African/Israeli nuclear test was detected by US early warning satellites.
China officially came in from the cold and Deng Xiaoping visited the United States in a defining strategic re-orientation by both states.
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.
In the extremes and contestations of the Cold War, 1979 saw some grim culture to go with the times: ACDC produced Highway to Hell, Stanley Kubrick gave us Apocalypse Now, while for Pink Floyd it was just ‘another brick in the wall.’
The Carter Cables III bring WikiLeaks’ total published US diplomatic cable collection to 3.3 million documents.
What follows are some example areas of events from 1979 covered in the new documents.
- 1 US and China resume diplomatic relations
- 7 Pol Pot deposed following Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia
- 16 Shah flees Iran
- 28 China’s leader Deng Xiaoping visits US
- 1 Khomeni returns to Iran 3 Khomeni creates Council of Islamic Revolution 10 Iranian Revolution 17 China invades northern Vietnam 18 Snow in the Sahara 25 Rhodesia bombs Angola ZIPRA camps in Operation Vanity
- 13 Coup in Grenada
- 15 Herat uprising in Afghanistan
- 26 Sadat and Begin sign Egypt-Israel peace treaty
- 28 Three Mile Island nuclear incident
- 30 British Conservative MP Airey Neave assassinated with car bomb
- 1 Iran overthrows Shah officially: Iran becomes the Islamic Republic through national referendum
- 2 Anthrax epidemic in Russia following biological weapons plant accident
- 4 Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is executed
- 11 Tanzanian invasion of Uganda; revolt against Idi Admin; fall of Kampala
- 17 IRA bombing kills four Ulster Constabulary at Bestbrooke, Northern Ireland
- 1 Greenland granted partial autonomy from Denmark
- 4 Margaret Thatcher elected Prime Minister
- 25 American Airlines flight 191 explodes near Chicago
- 4 Canada’s Pierre Trudeau defeated; Coup in Ghana
- 18 Carter and Brezhnev sign Salt II arms treaty
- 25 Baader-Meinhof assassination attempt in Belgium of NATO Supreme Allied Commander
- 16 Saddam Hussein takes power in Iraq
- 21 Sandinistas defeat Samoza in Nicaragua
- 28 Indian PM Charan Singh elected
- 3 Equatorial Guinea coup
- 5 Polisario Front signs peace agreement with Mauritania
- 11 Morocco annexes Western Sahara territory previously controlled by Mauritania
- 23 South Africa bombs ZIPRA camps in Zambia in Operation Motel
- 27 Eighteen UK soldiers killed by IRA at Warrentpoint, South Down
- 3-9 Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement
- 14 US-Colombia extradition treaty negotiated, opposed by Pablo Escobar cartel
- 20 Bokassa overthrown in Central African Republic via France’s Operation Barracuda
- 22 South African and Israeli nuclear test detected by US Vela satellite in southern Atlantic Ocean
- 29 President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea executed
- 1 First democratic elections in Nigeria; the birth of the second republic
- 15 Coup in El Salvador
- 16 French town of Nice hit by tsunami
- 26 President of South Korea Park Chung-hee assassinated
- 4 Iranian hostage crisis begins; 3000 raid US embassy, 90 hostages
- 14 Carter issues Executive Order 12170 freezing all Iranian assets
- 15 Blunt outed as the 4th man in Cambridge spy ring
- 20 Hajj hostage crisis in Saudi Arabia
- 21 US embassy in Islamabad set afire after false reports from Khomeni that US occupied Mecca
- 11 Three of the ANC’s “Pretoria Six” escape from Pretoria Central Prison (Moumbaris, Jenkin & Lee)
- 12 Decision to locate US Cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe
- 12 South Korea military coup
- 21 Lancaster House agreement signed leading to the creation of Zimbabwe and the election of Mugabe
- 24 USSR invasion of Afghanistan