Taken together, the cables portray a government hungry for any information about Iran, even if it was incomplete or contradictory about a country where the United States hadn't had an official presence for about 30 years, McClatchy Newspapers reported Sunday.
The cables, filed by a corps of U.S. diplomats known as "Iran watchers," provided insight into Iran. Most are classified "confidential," a low-security classification, although a third were labeled "secret" or "secret/no forn," meaning they should be read only by U.S. diplomats, McClatchy said.
The communiques are based on phone calls and e-mails to and from sources inside Iran, interviews with members of Iranian rock bands touring neighboring countries, foreign journalists who've been to Iran and conversations with traveling Iranian businessmen, academics, and former officials.
An Iran-watcher source "is someone who wants a [U.S.] visa, who wants money, is an expatriate, or someone with an explicitly anti-Islamic Republic agenda," said Flynt Leverett, a former White House and CIA official now a professor of international affairs at Penn State University.
"The whole concept is really flawed," Leverett, a critic of U.S. Iran policy, told McClatchy Newspapers. "It's almost structurally designed to make sure we get skewed information."