Among the thousands of diplomatic documents leaked by Wikileaks in its newest project, called “The Saudi Cables,” many underscore the Saudi concern on Iran and especially the fear of the prospect that Iran may emerge emboldened from a nuclear agreement signed with the international community, led by the US, Russia and major European countries.
Many of the scores of documents reviewed by AP appear aimed at keeping track of Iranian activity across the region or undermining Tehran’s interests. An undated memo apparently sent from the Saudi Embassy in Tehran made note of what it said was the “frustration of the Iranian citizen and his strong desire for regime change” and suggested ways to publicly expose Iran’s social grievances through “the Internet, social media like Facebook and Twitter.” It also suggests “hosting opposition figures overseas, coordinating with them and encouraging them to use galleries to show pictures of torture carried out by the Iranian regime against people.”
Saudis also kept a watchful eye on Iran’s friends, real or perceived. One 2012 memo warned that Iran was getting “flirting American messages,” suggesting that the US had no objections to a peaceful Iranian nuclear program so long as it had guarantees, “possibly Russian ones.”
Another memo, dated to 2012, accuses the United Arab Emirates of helping Russia and Iran circumvent international sanctions. A third memo — marked “top secret” — makes the startling claim that Iranian fighter jets bombed South Sudanese forces during a 2012 standoff over the oil-rich area of Heglig.
Elsewhere, a memo carries the claim that Gulf countries were prepared to pay $10 billion to secure the freedom of Egypt’s deposed strongman, Hosni Mubarak. The memo, written on a letterhead bearing only a single palm tree and crossed scimitars above the words “top secret,” quotes an unnamed Egyptian official as saying that the Muslim Brotherhood would agree to release Mubarak in exchange for the cash “since the Egyptian people will not benefit from his imprisonment.”
Although the document is undated, the political situation it describes suggests it was drafted in 2012, when the Muslim Brotherhood appeared poised to take power. Senior Brotherhood official Mohammed Morsi served as Egypt’s president from June 2012 to July 2013, before being ousted by the military.
But it’s not clear the idea of paying the Brotherhood to secure Mubarak’s release ever coalesced into a firm offer. A handwritten note at the top left of the document says the ransom “is not a good idea.”
“Even if it is paid the Muslim Brotherhood will not be able to do anything regarding releasing Mubarak,” the unknown author writes. “It seems there are no alternatives for the president but to enter prison.”
Still, the memo’s existence adds credence to the claim made in 2012 by senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat el-Shater that Saudi Arabia had offered billions of dollars in return for Mubarak’s freedom — something Saudi officials hotly denied at the time.
The diplomatic documents published by WikiLeaks Friday are only the first batch of what the transparency group says will be a much larger release. WikiLeaks has so far published roughly 60,000 documents, of which The Associated Press has only been able to authenticate a handful. But the organization has a long track record of hosting large leaks of government material and insists the latest batch is genuine.
Saudi officials have not explicitly challenged the authenticity of the documents and Saudi diplomats have not answered repeated requests for comment. However, the Foreign Ministry posted a carefully worded message on its Twitter account early Saturday morning, warning citizens to avoid visiting “any website with the aim of getting a document or leaked information that could be untrue and aims to harm the nation.”