Sunday, December 12, 2010
By Abdul Rahman al-Rashed
This comment was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 12/12/2010
It is still raining secrets, and each affected party is feeling embarrassed and angry. Everybody is busy anticipating what will appear the following morning, and praying, like in the Salatul Istisqa [Islamic prayer for rain] that "O Allah [let it rain] around us, and not upon us!" In the midst of this torrential downpour, the only thing that certainly does not match the magnitude of this event is the term "leaks" or indeed "WikiLeaks." We are facing a massive flood with the release of hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents, so it is not enough to refer to these as being "leaks." I imagine that Julian Assange, the hero of the battle, a mere computer hacker, could not comprehend the size of the treasure that he managed to get his hands on, or the risks that accompany it.
In our region, how are those concerned handling this event? This has naturally been described as a conspiracy by those who have been affected, as well as by those who have been shown something that does not fit with their preconceptions or beliefs. However some consider the leaked diplomatic cables to represent strong and glaring evidence, because they are consistent with their viewpoint. This is what we can see in the Lebanese arena. Stances towards WikiLeaks are sometimes contradictory. For example, the leaks may be described as false in one instance, whilst at other times they may serve as important proof, depending on the situation.
The worst position that anyone involved can adopt is one of denial, because this only brings more attention [to the issue]. We saw an example of this regarding a comment attributed to a Kuwaiti official who said that his country was not eager for Kuwaiti prisoners to be returned from Guantanamo Bay, something which only serves to bring more attention onto this issue.
Some of the leaks are simply ridiculous, such as the confidential US diplomatic cable which quoted Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara as saying that Britain's Prince Charles "would soon be implicated in a Scottish judicial investigation into Princess Diana's death, and was consequently planning a trip to Iraq and Iran" in order to "seek the support of the Muslim world."
There are other more controversial leaks, such as the document that revealed the plan for a joint-Arab military force to confront Hezbollah's occupation of West Beirut. This was a position that was not reflected in the impassive statements issued by Saudi Arabia at the time.
There is another cable that has particularly caused confusion, as it revealed details of an event that occurred during the Saudi – Huthi war. This reveals that the Yemenis provided Saudi Arabia with coordinates to carry out aerial assaults, with these target coordinates including a target in a residential area, however luckily the Saudi pilot flying this mission about his attack, sensing that something was amiss with regards to the target he was provided with. It later transpired that the coordinates were for the headquarters of Yemeni military commander Ali Muhsin. If the pilot had gone through with this mission it would have dramatically changed the relationship between the two states!
Is everything that has been revealed by the leaked diplomatic cables true? This is a matter best left to political observers and analysts who possess the required knowledge to assess this information, and in time we will be able to look at and investigate the veracity of everything that has been revealed. It is possible that some of the information and analysis made by the embassy staff is based upon incorrect information or sources, and we must also take into account that they have incorrectly analyzed local events. It also seems that there has been a deliberate plot undertaken by some sections of the Arab media, who have added information to the leaked documents, and sometimes fabricated a document in its entirety. Therefore we must be careful to read these documents from their approved sources, not via media summaries. In my opinion, most of what has been revealed up to now has been interesting and useful in understanding political realities.