A memo released by WikiLeaks Tuesday purportedly describes a Saudi deal with the Vatican to “spare the Christians” after Syrian President Bashar Assad falls.
There’s just one problem: even if the memo is genuine, that’s not what it actually says.
WikiLeaks promoted the newly-released document on Twitter Tuesday, initially writing that Saudi officials said “we will spare the Christians” if the Pope facilitates Assad’s ouster — suggesting Saudi Arabia would be in a position to determine the fate of Syria’s Christians.
Many Christians in Syria support keeping Assad in power, fearing radical Islamist factions in the civil war that has raged for over four years. Some also allege Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf support Islamic State, al-Qaida’s franchise Jabhat al-Nusra or other jihadi organizations. (RELATED: One Syrian Bishop Says What America Can Do To Help End The Civil War [VIDEO])
After Arabic speakers online criticized WikiLeaks’ interpretation of the document as “utterly bullshit,” WikiLeaks deleted the tweet. But before the retraction, at least one account, claiming ties to global hacker group Anonymous, copied the message to its own Twitter stream.
WikiLeaks then issued a revised tweet, summarizing the memo as “Saudi to Vatican: Help us bring down Assad and we will ensure Christians are spared from retaliation.” (VIDEO: Here’s What Easter Was Like For Christians In ISIS’ Backyard)
But what does the Arabic-language memo actually say?
It appears to be a letter directly to the Saudi king at the time, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, from Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal or another high-ranking official.
In dry language that resembles a United Nations report or U.S. State Department press release, the memo describes a meeting in April 2012 between the Saudi ambassador to Italy and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who at that time was the Secretary for Relations with States under Pope Benedict XVI. The meeting was reportedly carried out by royal decree: the writer specifies the order, High Directive #24616. (RELATED: Christian ‘Revenge Beheading’ Of ISIS Claimed By Observers)
According to the letter, Amb. Rayed Krimly expressed “our total commitment to the rights and freedoms of all the Syrian people,” saying Saudi Arabia “will not countenance any element of the Syrian people to meet reprisals, exclusion or marginalization” for political or religious reasons after the civil war.
The ambassador reportedly affirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for a “political solution and peaceful transition of power” in Syria, acknowledging that such an endgame “requires exercising maximum pressure on the regime to stop its killings, carry out its obligations and become convinced that a military solution is impossible.”
Tuesday’s WikiLeaks release also came alongside the news that al-Qaida-linked rebels captured a Catholic priest in the Syrian city of Idlib.
Officials have denied the authenticity of WikiLeaks’ most recent disclosures, which are allegedly documents stolen from the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The release also includes letters purportedly documenting the fruitless quest of Osama bin Laden’s son for his father’s death certificate. (RELATED: Bin Laden’s Son Was Denied A Death Certificate By The US Government)
While WikiLeaks’ allegation has not been verified, the Vatican has increased its involvement in Middle East politics in recent years. Amid stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinians, earlier this year the Holy See moved to establish formal diplomatic relations with Palestine as a state in its own right.
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