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]

https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/pics/f93dc529-7eff-43ea-87f3-7ec121b906fc.jpg

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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