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#SaudiCables: What We've Learned So Far About Lebanon

Screen Shot of one of the leaks

Screenshot of one of the leaks

WikiLeaks has released the Saudi Cables, which include “more than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.” With regard to Lebanon, local newspaper Al Akhbar, which has been a partner of WikiLeaks since the United States diplomatic cables leak in 2010, has been reporting on some of the local scandals.

Among the many revelations leaked in the cables are the implications of what Saudi Arabia's money had done for both Lebanese politics and journalism. According to cable ‘doc36598‘, Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian political party and part of the March 14 Alliance, sent a representative to request financial assistance from the Saudi government. Geagea is quoted as saying “I'm broke. I'm ready to do what the kingdom demands.” The request was made via an LF representative, Elie Abou Assi, who reported “difficulty of the financial situation of the party and to a certain extent have become unable to secure the salaries of employees in the party.”

Lebanese blogger Ramez Dagher of Moulahazat summarized it as such:

This cable is the diplomatic proof that Saudi Arabia helped the Lebanese Forces in their finances. In it, the Saudi foreign minister Saoud Al Faisal tells us that Samir Geagea’s man Elie Abou Assi met the Saudi ambassador and told him that the LF are struggling financially especially that they are countering two pro-Syrian foes (the Maronite patriarch and Aoun) and that Geagea is ready to travel to the KSA in order to solve the financial issues. The ambassador also said that the LF were ready to do as the Kingdom says. The wise Foreign minister also suggested that Sunni politicians be invited too (probably so that it doesn’t look fishy).

Another leak referred to Saudi Arabia's policy of “Buying Silence“. As detailed in the report:

one of the ways ‘neutralisation’ and ‘containment’ are ensured is by purchasing hundreds or thousands of subscriptions in targeted publications. These publications are then expected to return the favour by becoming an “asset” in the Kingdom’s propaganda strategy. A document listing the subscriptions that needed renewal by 1 January, 2010, details a series of contributory sums meant for two dozen publications in Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Kuwait, Amman and Nouakchott. The sums range from $500 to 9,750 Kuwaiti Dinars ($33,000). The Kingdom effectively buys reverse ‘shares’ in the media outlets, where the cash ‘dividends’ flow the opposite way, from the shareholder to the media outlet. In return Saudi Arabia gets political ‘dividends – an obliging press.’

It is in this context that we discovered (doc83763) that the Saudi government paid MTV, one of the main TV stations in Lebanon (not to be confused with the American TV channel). MTV asked for $20 million but received $5 million.

We also found out that another member of parliament, Boutros Harb, requested money from Saudi Arabia in order to create a political party (doc32628).

Read our special coverage: WikiLeaks Reveals the #SaudiCables

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