It was not long after Wikileaks had released the Saudi cables that the dirty laundry it revealed about Egypt’s political elite began circulating in news reports and social media. Although many of the leaks have only confirmed what observers had long suspected, the details they reveal regarding the conduct of various Egyptian political actors were quite shocking.
The Saudi government first responded over twitter holding that these leaks were both false and destabilizing, while urging citizens not to republish documents that could enable so-called enemies of the state to achieve their goals. Subsequently, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the content of the leaked documents was not at odds the official foreign policy line of the Kingdom.
The leaks show a strong Saudi interest in Egyptian politics, the trial and possible release of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, and the portrayal of the Kingdom in Egyptian media.
One cable from December 2012 cites an Egyptian army source reporting that then-Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was angry at President Mohamed Morsi’s rejection of the army’s call for a societal dialogue. The call was apparently aimed at resolving political disputes between supporters and opponents of President Morsi following his issuing of the November 2012 constitutional declaration. The cable reinforces the view that the said episode was a turning point in the relationship between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, and helped pave the way to the 3 July 2013 coup.
Another notable find is a document alleging covert offer by Khairat El-Shater to help release deposed president Hosni Mubarak in exchange for gulf aid of around ten billion USD. Interestingly, the same document cites an Egyptian official who “predicted” that the court would hand down harsh sentences to Mubarak and his sons. Al-Shater is presented in the leaked documents as the central figure within the Muslim Brotherhood, enjoying more powers even than the General Guide himself.
The cables were also consistent with analyses arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood has been willing to cut deals with the military and the former regime in order to secure power. One cable alleges a deal that Khairat El-Shater proposed to give amnesty to all SCAF members suspected of crimes against protesters should the Muslim Brotherhood ascend to power.
Saudi Arabia has followed the Mubarak trial closely and expressed concerns about the verdict. For example, one cable considers whether or not Mubarak would be acquitted due to lack of evidence. It also speculated about possible backlash on the street. The document conveyed the widespread impression that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was protecting Mubarak, citing the favorable testimonies of army leaders, and the burning of relevant documents in the former state security and the NDP building. The leaks also bring insight into the close ties between Egyptian political figures and the Saudi regime. A case in point is pro-military writer and former parliamentarian Mostafa Bakry who, according to one leaked document, consulted with the Saudi Ambassador to Cairo about possible plans to launch a political party, a daily newspaper, and a television station to counter Shia influence in Egypt. Bakry has since fought back and claimed the leak was fabricated.
One letter mentioned that former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawaas contacted the Saudi embassy on behalf of Egyptian satirist Ahmed Ragab, who passed away last September. Ragab, according to the letter, assured through Hawass that his writings criticizing the failure of Gulf monarchies to deliver aid to Egypt were directed at Qatar and not Saudi Arabia, for which he holds tremendous respect.
The name of former Mubarak aide and National Democratic Party leader Mostafa El Feqi makes prominent appearances in the Saudi cables. A series of leaked correspondences suggests that he provided the Saudis several reports analyzing the situation in Egypt. In the aftermath of the leak, El Feqi denied any wrong-doing and claimed that the studies and analyses he sent were all based on public information.
On the media front, a leaked cable brings to focus Saudi’s dissatisfaction with ON TV’s coverage of the Kingdom’s affairs. After an ONTV show interviewed exiled Saudi dissident Saad El Faqih, the Saudi Ambassador in Egypt contacted Naguib Sawiris, the “owner of the channel,” to communicate his dissatisfaction with that incident. The Ambassador also reports contacting ONTV manager Albert Shafiq and conveying a similar message to him through Mostafa El Feqi. Sawiris, the letter states, apologized for the incident and promised that it would never happen again.
The leaks bring to light the Saudi government’s interest in the performance of the Salafist Al-Nour Party. They include detailed reports about the internal rifts within the party.
In one rather contentious letter sent from the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, it was reported that Egyptian Intelligence elements were present in Sudan plotting to assassinate South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir Mayardit in collaboration with Sudanese intelligence.
Recently, through its exclusive access to additional leaked cables, Mada Masr reported on documents highlighting Saudi official efforts to clear the name of a Saudi prince from a potential investigation. The investigation involves allegations that the Saudi royal helped Mubarak-tied business tycoon Hussein Salem smuggle out of Egypt a shipment that included elephants’ tusks and fox fur.
Mada Masr also published Saudi cables reporting on the friction between the Muslim Brotherhood and the United Arab Emirates, and close relationship between the UAE and Ahmed Shafiq who lost to Morsi in the 2012 presidential elections.