Newly Translated WikiLeaks Saudi Cable: Overthrow the Syrian Regime, but Play Nice with Russia

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Bashar_al-Assad_in_Russia_(2015-10-21)_06.jpg(Image Source: Wiki Commons)

IT IS NO SECRET that Saudi Arabia, along with its Gulf and Western allies, has played a direct role in fueling the fires of grinding sectarian conflict that has kept Syria burning for the past five years. It is also no secret that Russian intervention has radically altered the kingdom’s “regime change” calculus in effect since at least 2011. But an internal Saudi government cable sheds new light on the kingdom’s current threats of military escalation in Syria.

Overthrow the Regime “by all means available”

A WikiLeaks cable released as part of “The Saudi Cables” in the summer of 2015, now fully translated here for the first time, reveals what the Saudis feared most in the early years of the war: Russian military intervention and Syrian retaliation. These fears were such that the kingdom directed its media “not to oppose Russian figures and to avoid insulting them” at the time.

Saudi Arabia had further miscalculated that the “Russian position” of preserving the Assad government “will not persist in force.” In Saudi thinking, reflected in the leaked memo, Assad’s violent ouster (“by all means available”) could be pursued so long as Russia stayed on the sidelines. The following section is categorical in its emphasis on regime change at all costs, even should the U.S. vacillate for “lack of desire”:

The fact must be stressed that in the case where the Syrian regime is able to pass through its current crisis in any shape or form, the primary goal that it will pursue is taking revenge on the countries that stood against it, with the Kingdom and some of the countries of the Gulf coming at the top of the list. If we take into account the extent of this regime’s brutality and viciousness and its lack of hesitancy to resort to any means to realize its aims, then the situation will reach a high degree of danger for the Kingdom, which must seek by all means available and all possible ways to overthrow the current regime in Syria. As regards the international position, it is clear that there is a lack of “desire” and not a lack of “capability” on the part of Western countries, chief among them the United States, to take firm steps…

Amman-based Albawaba News—one of the largest online news providers in the Middle East—was the first to call attention to the WikiLeaks memo, which “reveals Saudi officials saying President Bashar al-Assad must be taken down before he exacts revenge on Saudi Arabia.” Albawaba offered a brief partial translation of the cable, which though undated, was likely produced in early 2012 (based on my best speculation using event references in the text; Russia began proposing informal Syrian peace talks in January 2012).

Russian Hardware, a Saudi Nightmare

Over the past weeks Saudi Arabia has ratcheted up its rhetoric on Syria, threatening direct military escalation and the insertion of special forces on the ground, ostensibly for humanitarian and stabilizing purposes as a willing partner in the “war on terror.” As many pundits are now observing, in reality the kingdom’s saber rattling stems not from confidence, but utter desperation as its proxy anti-Assad fighters face defeat by overwhelming Russian air power and Syrian ground forces, and as the Saudi military itself is increasingly bogged down in Yemen.

Even as the Saudi regime dresses its bellicose rhetoric in humanitarian terms, it ultimately desires to protect the flow of foreign fighters into Northern Syria, which is its still hoped-for “available means” of toppling the Syrian government (or at least, at this point, permanent sectarian partition of Syria).

The U.S. State Department’s own 2014 Country Report on Terrorism confirms that the rate of foreign terrorist entry into Syria over the past few years is unprecedented among any conflict in history: “The rate of foreign terrorist fighter travel to Syria – totaling more than 16,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 90 countries as of late December – exceeded the rate of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”

According to Cinan Siddi, Director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Georgetown’s prestigious School of Foreign Service, Russian military presence in Syria was born of genuine geopolitical interests. In a public lecture recently given at Baylor University, Siddi said that Russia is fundamentally trying to disrupt the “jihadi corridor” facilitated by Turkey and its allies in Northern Syria.

The below leaked document gives us a glimpse into Saudi motives and fears long before Russian hardware entered the equation, and the degree to which the kingdom utterly failed in assessing Russian red lines.

For the first time, here’s a full translation of the text

THE BELOW original translation is courtesy of my co-author, a published scholar of Arabic and Middle East History, who wishes to remain unnamed. Note: the cable as published in the SaudiLeaks trove appears to be incomplete.


 

[…] shared interest, and believes that the current Russian position only represents a movement to put pressure on him, its goals being evident, and that this position will not persist in force, given Russia’s ties to interests with Western countries and the countries of the Gulf.
If it pleases Your Highness, I support the idea of entering into a profound dialogue with Russia regarding its position towards Syria*, holding the Second Strategic Conference in Moscow, working to focus the discussion during it on the issue of Syria, and exerting whatever pressure is possible to dissuade it from its current position. I likewise see an opportunity to invite the head of the Committee for International Relations in the Duma to visit the Kingdom. Since it is better to remain in communication with Russia and to direct the media not to oppose Russian figures and to avoid insulting them, so that no harm may come to the interests of the Kingdom, it is possible that the new Russian president will change Russian policy toward Arab countries for the better. However, our position currently in practice, which is to criticize Russian policy toward Syria and its positions that are contrary to our declared principles, remains. It is also advantageous to increase pressure on the Russians by encouraging the Organization of Islamic States to exert some form of pressure by strongly brandishing Islamic public opinion, since Russia fears the Islamic dimension more than the Arab dimension.
In what pertains to the Syrian crisis, the Kingdom is resolute in its position and there is no longer any room to back down. The fact must be stressed that in the case where the Syrian regime is able to pass through its current crisis in any shape or form, the primary goal that it will pursue is taking revenge on the countries that stood against it, with the Kingdom and some of the countries of the Gulf coming at the top of the list. If we take into account the extent of this regime’s brutality and viciousness and its lack of hesitancy to resort to any means to realize its aims, then the situation will reach a high degree of danger for the Kingdom, which must seek by all means available and all possible ways to overthrow the current regime in Syria.
As regards the international position, it is clear that there is a lack of “desire” and not a lack of “capability” on the part of Western countries, chief among them the United States, to take firm steps […]

*[in the Arabic text: Russia, but this is a typo]

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SaudiLeaks Document: Did Saudi Arabia Barter in Christian Lives at the Vatican? Here’s the Full Translation

THE BELOW IS A COMPLETE TRANSLATION of the Saudi cable released by WikiLeaks, which came under scrutiny this week after WikiLeaks announced the following via Twitter on Monday with a link to the document: “Saudi to Vatican: Help us bring down Assad and we will spare the Christians.”

The initial tweet has since been deleted after controversy over whether the Arabic actually implies this, and was replaced by the following:

Whether WikiLeaks overstated the contents or not, the document at the very least reveals that the Saudi king (since 1964 also referred to as “prime minister”) took significant steps in April 2012 to do PR damage control concerning the Syrian opposition’s image.

In late March of 2012 the official Vatican news agency, Agenzia Fides, published a report citing “an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” by anti-government fighters in Homs based on Syrian Orthodox church sources—this report quickly made world headlines. It was further widely reported in international press that 90% of the large Christian population of Homs had been forcibly expelled and their homes confiscated by rebel fighters.

As Saudia Arabia was giving public political support to the opposition at this time, as well as clandestine military support to rebel fighters through a joint CIA program reported by the New York Times to have begun in early 2012, it seems the kingdom was fully aware that the Christian problem could turn world public opinion against the armed rebels—many of which were expressly sectarian in their ideology—and their external backers.

The WikiLeaks Saudi trove contains another revelatory cable, undated, which speaks of a desire to “with all known possible methods bring down the current regime in Syria.

Amman-based Albawaba News, which is one of the largest online news providers in the Middle East, published an English translation of the following relevant passage:

The kingdom took its firm position and there is no longer room to withdraw. There must be emphasis on the truth that the Syrian regime’s first goal, to bypass its current crisis, is the revenge of the countries that stand against it, and the kingdom and some of the Gulf countries are on top of the list. If we take into consideration the range of the cruelty of that regime, its inhumanity and its lack of hesitation to use any way to accomplish its goals, then there is a high degree of danger for the kingdom, making it crucial to aim — with all known possible methods — to bring down the current regime in Syria.

This “bring down the regime” document, alongside the below newly translated Saudi-Vatican document wherein it is clear that the Vatican was being urged by Saudi Arabia to publicly support the revolution in Syria, should give us cause for serious consideration of WikiLeaks’ summary assertion of the secretive document: “Help us bring down Assad and we will ensure Christians are spared from retaliation.”

Was the Saudi emissary sent on this high priority mission (presumably then permanent foreign minister Saud bin Faysal) employing a carrot-and-stick approach while subtly using the lives of Syrian Christians?

THE BELOW is the first English translation of the Saudi-Vatican document on the web, courtesy of a Levant Report team member who is a published scholar of Arabic and Middle East History.


 

(Secret and Urgent)

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Prime Minister

May God preserve him

I am honored to refer to Directive No. 24616 dated 15.5.1433 [= April 7, 2012] which contains approval for sending a delegation to meet with the foreign minister of the Vatican bearing a verbal message from me urging them to encourage the Christians to support the movement of the Syrian people and to reassure them that all parties who support the Syrian people are committed to the rights of minorities in Syria and, in the event of the fall of the Syrian regime, will not accept for them to be subjected to any acts of retribution.

I am pleased to present for your consideration that I delegated His Excellency Abassador Raed bin Khaled Grimly to meet with His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs Archbishop Dominic Mamberti at the Vatican on Thursday, 20.5.1433 [= April 12, 2012] and he transmitted to His Excellency a verbal message regarding Syria, which has experienced an unacceptable and dangerous deterioration in its situation, that we affirm, along with the rest of the friends of the Syrian people, our complete commitment to the rights and freedoms of all members of the Syrian people of the various sects and ethnicities, that we absolutely will not accept for any elements of Syrian society to be subjected to acts of retribution, exclusion or marginalization and therefore we have continued to work to unite the Syrian opposition and to affirm its declared and reliable commitment to establish a regime that guarantees the rights, freedoms and equality of everyone without exception, and that we support a political solution and a peaceful transfer of authority but this requires the maximum possible pressure to be put on the regime to stop the killing, carry out its commitments, and be persuaded that it is not possible to achieve a military victory. For his part, His Excellency expressed his eagerness for continued communication between the two sides, affirming their expectation for development in relations based on what Your Highness has agreed […]


Note: the following page to the WikiLeaks document is not locatable or is unavailable, hence the text ends with the top page.

Permission is given to freely distribute the above translation with reference to LevantReport.com

ISIS is now deploying US-supplied TOW Anti-tank Missiles in Syria

8_small.jpgProduced by ISIS media, the Arabic reads “Firing the TOW missile system against the apostates.” The set of photos released together, which can be viewed here, claims Al-Qarytayn in the countryside southeast of Homs as the location.

ISIS fighters are currently boasting of the deployment of their latest military hardware through photos distributed by Islamic State’s “Wilayat Damascus” (State of Damascus): the US-supplied BGM 71E TOW anti-tank missile system.

Among those confirming the authenticity of the photos include analysts at the hawkish Brookings Institution and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies funded Long War Journal.

Long War Journal columnist Caleb Weiss reports:

In the photo set, many Islamic State fighters can be seen amassing in more than 15 technicals, or armed pickup trucks. The pictures then show the use of the TOW missile on Free Syrian Army (FSA) units. The last few photos show FSA members the Islamic State has taken captive.

In a December 27 article, independent journalist Maram Susli outlined the existing evidence for Al-Qaeda group Al-Nusrah Front being in possession of US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles, while also raising the possibility that ISIS could already be in possession of these systems given the porous and interactive nature of terror militias operating in Syria:

Given the Syrian rebels’ history of openly working along side or defecting to Al Qaeda groups, it is highly doubtful the US government did not predict the TOW missiles would end up in Al Qaeda’s hands.

It is more likely the US provided the rebels with the TOW missiles whilst knowing it would end up in the hands of Al Qaeda. Indeed it has been widely accepted, that Jabhat Al Nusra, ISIS and Ahrar al Sham, another Al Qaeda linked group, are the most powerful groups opposing the Syrian army.

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Indeed, it has been documented by an external monitoring group, the UK-based Conflict Armament Research, that the well-known CIA-Saudi program (publicly acknowledged to have begun in 2012) to transfer thousands of tons of weaponry to insurgents in Syria resulted in the arming of ISIS fighters.

Conflict Armament Research was able to trace the serial numbers of weapons recovered by Kurds battling ISIS in Eastern Syria back directly to the CIA-Saudi weapons airlift program. While not as advanced and up-to-date as the current anti-tank systems being displayed in ISIS photographs, the weapons monitoring group’s official report provided evidence that portable rockets were making making it to ISIS hands as of 2013:

M79 90 MM anti-tank rockets captured from IS forces in Syria are identical to M79 rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operationg under the ‘Free Syrian Army’ umbrella in 2013.

Expect more of US-made BGM 71E TOW systems to show up in ISIS hands. Eventually, enough photographic and serial inscription evidence will be available to establish direct chain of custody and origin. Expect the CIA, Pentagon, and their partners in the Gulf to be in full denial and defensive mode.

 

NEO Journal: Sanction-Drunk West Forgets to Target ISIS Sponsors

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NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK (by Ulson Gunnar 9/21/14) – As the US and Europe prepare another round of sanctions against Russia over the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, the third round of such sanctions since the conflict began shortly after the Euromaidan unrest resulted in the installation of a NATO-backed regime in Kiev, a curious and inexplicable oversight appears to have been made.

While wild accusations have been leveled against Russia over its involvement over the violence in Ukraine, claims ranging from covert support up to and including unsubstantiated claims of a “full scale invasion,” prominent media organizations across the Western World have for years reported a flow of cash, weapons, equipment and fighters from America’s allies in the Persian Gulf as well as from nations like NATO member Turkey, and into the conflict raging within Syria’s borders.

While baseless claims leveled against Russia have served as ample justification for the West to continue leveling sanctions against Moscow, no sanctions have as of yet been leveled against the overt sponsors of militancy and, in fact, terrorism in Syria. So widespread has state-sponsored terrorism become in the Middle East that what began as a limited proxy war against Syria has transformed into an immense regional army with tens of thousands of paid soldiers requiring millions of dollars a day to operate across multiple borders and confounding the forces of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon combined.

ISIS is State-Sponsored, So Why Aren’t These States Being Sanctioned? 

Clearly, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS or ISIL, are the benefactors of vast state-sponsorship and yet the West has not identified nor condemned these sponsors, let alone move toward leveling sanctions similar to what it is seeking to impose upon Moscow.

Read the full article at NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK…

Perception Management and ISIS: don’t ask questions, just be afraid…be very afraid!

Glenn Greenwald: “USSR is evil empire of unprecedented threat —> Al Qaeda is unparalleled evil, makes USSR seem mild –> ISIS makes AQ seem mild, etc. etc.”

“The question at the heart of this whole story is – Who was the ventriloquist? And who was the dummy?

Maybe we were the dummy? By allowing perception management with its simplifications, falsehoods and exaggerations to create a simplified vision of the world – we fell into a fake universe of certainty when really we were just watching a pantomime.

And now as the Arab Spring unfolds and reveals the true chaos and messiness of the real world – above all the horror of what is happening in Syria – we find ourselves completely unable to understand it or even know what to do. So those stories get ignored while we follow others with clearer and more simplified dramas which have what seem to be obvious goodies and baddies – thank god for Iran, North Korea and Jimmy Savile.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                          —from He’s Behind You, by Adam Curtis

Former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove says ISIS/Islamic State was Saudi sponsored project from the beginning

“Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.”

THE INDEPENDENT UK (7/13/14) – How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Read the full article here.

Dr. Srdja Trifkovic: The Ever More Complex Levantine Puzzle

http://syriathetruth.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/20140216-203553.jpgLR Editor’s Note: This is a must-read from Dr. Srdja Trifkovic of Chronicles Magazine. Dr. Trifkovic is the foreign affairs expert for The Rockford Institute, and has been featured on RT News and Al-Jazeera. He’s authored multiple books on Islam, the Balkans, and Middle East conflict. His June 14 article “The Ever More Complex Levantine Puzzle” offers a devastating critique of Ambassador Robert Ford’s championing  of the Syrian rebel cause.

…..

Chronicles Magazine – “Both Mr. Assad and the jihadists represent a challenge to the United States’ core interests,” former U.S. Ambassador in Damascus Robert S. Ford wrote in The New York Times on June 10. He advocated a strategy that would supposedly deal with both Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists: “with partner countries from the Friends of Syria group like France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.”

Decrying Washington’s “hesitation and unwillingness to commit to enabling the moderate opposition fighters to fight more effectively both the jihadists and the regime,” Ambassador Ford advocated providing his unnamed Syrian “moderates” with advanced military hardware, including “mortars and rockets to pound airfields to impede regime air supply operations and, subject to reasonable safeguards, surface-to-air missiles.”

Ford’s article is irresponsible and ill-informed at best. It was published on the very day the insurgents belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as “ISIS” to include Syria) started its spectacular advance on Mosul, Tikrit, and points further south. Even more surreally dangerous were the BloombergView editors, who urged (also on June 10) an outright, American-led anti-Assad intervention: “the U.S. and its European and regional allies should take the initiative to circumvent the UN Security Council and put the needed military muscle on the ground. Yes, Russia and China will be furious. So be it.” Now that would be a bold strategy, with many exciting ramifications in Ukraine, along the shores of the South China Sea, and elsewhere. With their gas supplies in balance, “the European allies” can hardly wait.

Ambassador Ford has wisely stayed out of the news over the past couple of days, but it would be interesting to find out if he still stands by the assessment he made four days ago. Does he still advocate arming the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “moderates,” who have been comprehensively routed by the Syrian security forces and who no longer exist as a fighting force? That same FSA, whose units invariably melt away – Iraqi-army-style – whenever confronted with the warriors of jihad, and who have observed a truce with ISIS since late September 2013? To claim that its pathetic remnant can be trained, armed and equipped to the point where it would be able take on Bashar’s army and ISIS simultaneously is insane. Or does Ford have the murderous Al Nusra Front in mind, jihadist to boot, which is a battlefield rival to ISIS and hence perhaps worthy of being treated as a “moderate” force? That same Al Nusra which is currently spreading its reign of terror into Lebanon?

And how exactly would be those surface-to-air missiles subjected to Ford’s “reasonable safeguards”? Perhaps like 400 such missiles were safeguarded in Libya in September 2012, only to end up “in the hands of some very ugly people”? Not to mention thousands of others, which remain unaccounted for; and not to speculate on the vast, yet unknown quantities of U.S.-supplied weapons and ordnance – probably including anti-aircraft missiles – which have fallen into the hands of ISIS fighters in Mosul and Tikrit…

Does Ambassador Ford still advocate working with “our partners” which are funding ISIS, the group which “was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region”? The same ones whom al-Maliki has been publicly accusing for months of supporting ISIS? In particular, does Ford still advocate cooperating with that same desert kingdom which, in addition to ISIS, has given us endless other woes around the globe? As Robert Fisk, one of the best informed Middle East analysts in existence, commented in The Independent on June 12, “after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama”:

From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles. Apart from Saudi Arabia’s role in this catastrophe, what other stories are to be hidden from us in the coming days and weeks?

Fisk rightly points out that “the story of Iraq and the story of Syria are the same – politically, militarily and journalistically: two leaders, one Shia, the other Alawite, fighting for the existence of their regimes against the power of a growing Sunni Muslim international army.” In that conflict, various Sunni ruling oligarchies in Riyadh and around the Gulf – most of them with substantial Shia populations – see their own broader picture in terms of an existential Sunni-Shia regional contest, in which their sympathies (and money, and arms) are invariably with the forces of “orthodox” jihad. The United States government needs to publically acknowledge this ill-guarded secret before any meaningful U.S. counter-strategy can be devised and developed.

Left to their own devices, those royal aiders and abettors of ISIS will not change their ways. Even the strange spectacle of ISIS joining forces with the Baathist remnant in northwestern Iraq is unlikely to sway Kuwait – the victim of Saddam’s aggression in 1991 – and terminate its role as a financing and organizational hub for ISIS and other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. It would be incongruous for the United States to treat Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein, and Kuwait as “partners” while they continue supporting such groups, and at the same time to support Al Maliki against ISIS on the Iraqi front… and to continue insisting on Bashar’s removal on the Syrian flank.

Read the full article here…