Turkmen and U.S. official cut the ribbon on a new border checkpoint in Farab, October 2009
The Wikileaks site has been down, after Amazon, invoking its Terms of Service, decided to withdraw server support. Various volunteers have been gradually putting up mirror sites of the cables, said to number more than 250,000, and two more cables have appeared allegedly from the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat on a mirror site.
An alleged cable dated January 10, 2010 and signed by charge Sylvia Reed Curran describes how the humint is gathered.
A source dubbed "Iran Watcher," identified only as an American who apparently had other travelers with him, was able to go and chat with Iranian truckers waiting to cross the Turkmen-Uzbek border. The long waits mean that the watchers have ample time to go and hang out in the cafes and talk to people:
The process of canvassing Iranians waiting at the Turkmen-Uzbek border is not exactly scientific. Nevertheless, chatting with truckers at various points throughout the border town of Farap is as close as one might get, outside of Iran, to a Masshad "street". Most come from Masshad or other towns in northern Iran, and conversations with them offer a candid glimpse of how working class Iranians view events at home. Iran Watcher spoke with several groups of Iranians passing through Farap xxxxxxxxxxx. Those conversations brought out divergent, sometimes surprising, points of view.
"In a year, Ahmadinejad will be out," said a 50-year old man described as "something of a firebrand," at a truck stop catering to Iranian and Turkish truckers. ""The mullahs and Ahmadinejad? They can all go to hell," said another man.
The embassy sources didn't just chat up the truckers, they handed out Farsi-language copies of Secretary Hillary Clinton's December 2009 speech, "On the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century" and U.S.-Iran flag pins which were "a big hit", according to the cable.
Several truckers explained that they'd have to read the speech in Turkmenistan, as they'd get into trouble if caught with it in Iran. But one took several copies enthusiastically and hid them.
"Some people might not like individual leaders or clerics, but overall, they want an Islamic form of government. That's why people are basically happy with the regime," explained one trucker.
The drivers seemed less than thrilled with U.S. foreign policy, and some seemed to be adherents of the "inside job" theory for 9/11:
"Obama promised a lot when he was running for president. He said he would end the U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and close Guantanamo, but he's done none of it." xxxxxxxxxxxx said that in his view, neither military action was justified, including the war in Afghanistan. "Don't Americans understand about 9/11? The whole thing was devised by Bush." His companion xxxxxxxxxxxx echoed, "Yes, it was all a pretext for America's so-called war on terror." Both men went on to qualify their statements with, "We're no fans of the Taliban. Did you know that they tell their suicide bombers that they'll go to paradise if they kill five Shiites?" (This was followed by questions about Christian sects, and whether Catholics and Orthodox Christians have as many problems between them as Sunni and Shiite Muslims.)
The cable concludes that with an estimated 70,000 Iranians, mainly truckers, passing through Turkmenistan, conversations with them are informative for the U.S. and the Iranians are described as appearing "anxious to learn about the U.S."