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WikiLeaks released the first batch of the so-called Saudi cables on June 19, 2015. By June 22, a total of 61,214 of the documents were released online. More than half a million of these cables are in the hands of WikiLeaks.
According to Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, an award-winning author and geopolitical analyst, the documents are believed to have been hacked from the Saudi Foreign Ministry in May 2015 by a group calling itself the Yemen Cyber Army as retaliation to the House of Sauds war against Yemen. The Yemen Cyber Army probably is not Yemeni and almost certainly is an outward show for another actor wishing to either penalize Saudi Arabia or even possibly manipulate it.
In the Arab World there is great interest about the documents. The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akbar has also partnered itself with WikiLeaks to release the so-called Saudi cables, as it has with previous leaks. The Saudi cables, however, do not tell the world and Wikileaks readers anything new about Saudi Arabia.
The House of Saud has characteristically tried to buy influence. It wrongly believes that loyalty can be bought. Call them subsidies, grants, bursaries, or business contracts: they are all forms of bribery. The documents released by WikiLeaks confirm that the House of Saud has used bribery as a major foreign policy tool by financing political figures in other countries such as the pro-Israeli warlord Samir Geagea in Lebanon and buying off individuals and organizations to secure its interests. This bribery includes co-opting and recruiting both Arabic and non-Arabic media outlets.
Additionally, the cables confirm that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been spying on its citizens abroad, closely following Saudi university students to see if they want changes in Saudi Arabia, watching dissidents, trying its hardest to handicap Iranian interests, destabilizing Iraq, helping the dictators of Bahrain, and using Saudi-financed media to sanitize its image and deceive Arab audiences. Again, none of this tells us anything new that we did not know about the Kingdom and its decadent rulers.
The documents depict the House of Saud as waging a perpetual and systematic campaign to influence and manage the media as part of a vulgar perception management strategy. Not only are Saudi-owned media outlets like Al Arabiya and Asharq Al-Awsat part of this, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information has been central to this policy of buying influence using the revenues from Saudi Arabias oil sales.
The Saudi cables show that Saudi Arabia’s rulers have used a gradient strategy. The House of Sauds media strategy starts with co-optation through bribery by what we can call agents of influence. Agents of influence can include diplomats, public relations firms, and lawyers. The House of Saud has teams of lawyers, consultants, and public relations firms constantly working for it and monitoring the media and the House of Sauds public image at all times.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya stated that it is the task of the agents of influence to find and contact the media outlets reporting negatively about the House of Saud. In some cases the agents of influence find them and in others Saudi officials in Riyadh order the agents of influence to contact the third parties. The preliminary task of the agents of influence is to neutralize the negative reporting about the House of Saud.
This is primarily done through bribery. Saudi Arabia has paid for massive subscriptions of Arab newspapers in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, and Mauritania as a means of inducing the publications to self-censor themselves or to provide positive coverage about the House of Saud.
If bribery does not work then a strategy of containment involving slander is applied followed by a strategy of confrontation that involves litigation and sabotage. Both the containment and confrontation strategies of the House of Saud involve falsely planting stories under what is generally categorized as black propaganda.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya noted that aside from promoting the image of the House of Saud, co-opted media outlets are important for the strategies of containment and confrontation because they launch attacks on those targeted by the House of Saud. Targets have included Arab activists, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, “Al-Akbar” newspaper, and Syria.
Again, it has to be noted that it widely known that bribery have been an important and central policy tool for Saudi princes. It also has to be emphasized that the information about the Saudi media strategy released by WikiLeaks is not a new revelation. These Saudi activities have widely been recognized.
Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has reacted to the release of the WikiLeaks cables by warning its citizens to refrain from reading the documents. Saudi Arabia has emphasized that ignoring the documents is a matter of national security. It has also declared that the documents being released by Wikileaks are doctored fabrications without even providing one example.
What is missing from the Saudi cables that WikiLeaks released heretofore are any documents about the House of Sauds support for Al-Qaeda and the other armed gangs that are wreaking havoc inside Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. This is important and noteworthy.
There are some very important questions to be asked and thought over about the Saudi cables. Are the release of the Saudi cables retaliation for Saudi aggression in Yemen or punishment for efforts by the House of Saud to exert itself independently from Washington? Why is the crisis in Syria and Saudi support for the foreign fighters ravaging Syria largely left out of the leaks? If Saudi involvement in the fighting in Syria was seriously mentioned in the cables released by WikiLeaks it could incriminate other countries, such as the US, Britain, France, and Turkey.
The release of the Saudi cables may hurt Saudi Arabia economically and weaken its media strategy, which will lead to both economic and political instability for the Kingdom as it increasingly fails to control more information about the House of Sauds actions. Furthermore, the Saudi cables have been released on the eve of important talks and negotiations between Saudi and Russian officials that follow agreements and earlier talks between the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Although Saudi Arabia could be manipulating Moscow for Washington, joint funds, space cooperation, nuclear agreements, investments, and arms deals all seem to be in the works. The last time Saudi Arabia made major deals with the Kremlin nothing came out of them, either because the House of Saud was toying with the Russians or due to orders being sent from the US to Saudi Arabia.