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Cablegate: Arab Media, Online Chat Rooms and the Munich Security

VZCZCXRO0668
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHMZ #0034/01 0540829
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230829Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5048
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEU/EU INTEREST COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0449

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000034

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER EINT KISL XF XD GM
SUBJECT: ARAB MEDIA, ONLINE CHAT ROOMS AND THE MUNICH SECURITY
CONFERENCE

MUNICH 00000034 001.2 OF 002


Summary
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1. (U) The handshake between Prince Turki al Faisal, the former
head of Saudi Arabia's Intelligence Service, and Israeli Deputy
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon off stage but in public view at the
Munich Security Conference (Munich, February 5-7, reported septels)
drew the attention of Arab websites, including jihadist chat rooms.
Despite this "controversial" event, ConGen Munich's informal survey
of Arab online media revealed that the MSC came up only 13 times in
jihadist chat rooms and included mentions of the comments by Iran's
Foreign Minister Motakki and discussions on the political
reintegration of moderate Taliban. This lack of interest suggested
that the conference has not yet captivated the jihadist chat rooms
despite the relevant subject matter and participation of important
leaders from the region. End Summary.

2. (SBU) From February 5 to 7 the 46th Munich Security Conference
(MSC) welcomed international security experts and politicians from
Europe, America, the Middle East and China, who discussed major
security policy issues such as resource security, nuclear
proliferation, stability in the Middle East and NATO's new
Afghanistan strategy.
After the three-day meeting, Munich's Political section visited the
following jihadist chat rooms: al-Faloja (al-faloja.info); al-Medad
(almedad.com); Ana al-Muslm (muslm.net): al-Ma'ark (m3ark.com);
al-Hanein (hanein.info); as-Ansar (as-ansar.com). We also browsed
through Arab news websites (e.g. Al Jazeera), online editions of
newspapers, as well as Islamist news sites/chat rooms (e.g. Muslim
Brotherhood) to see if and how they reported or discussed the
conference.

3. (SBU) Given Iran's growing regional influence, news on the
country's nuclear program and Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr
Mottaki's Friday evening informal remarks at the MSC were followed
but not emphasized by Arab media. However, another incident during
the Munich Security Conference (MSC) received significantly more
attention: the handshake between Prince Turki al Faisal, the former
head of Saudi Arabia's Intelligence Service, and Israeli Deputy
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Ayalon had begun his talk alleging
that "a representative of a country with a lot of oil" had objected
to share the stage with an Israeli and that therefore two separate
Middle East panels had been set up. In the question and answer
session Prince Turki stood up and claimed that it was not he who had
objected to sharing the stage with an Israeli. Ayalon responded
saying "if indeed it was not he who objected to my being here with
him, I would welcome him to shake my outstretched hand." Ayalon then
went off stage, walked toward the prince and shook his hand. (NOTE:
In fact, the objections had come from the Turkish delegation, based
on a diplomatic dispute between Israel and Turkey.)

4. (SBU) According to one article it was the first time that
pictures of a handshake between a representative from Saudi Arabia
and Israel were shown in the media. In the "al-Hanein" jihadist
forum a posting about the handshake generated a few angry comments.
In the "Ana al-Muslim" jihadist forum three articles from various
sources were posted regarding the handshake, but they did not
provoke any comments so far. A few other Islamist media outlets and
chat rooms mentioned or discussed the handshake, voicing strong
condemnation.

5. (SBU) Obviously aware of the gesture's "controversial" nature,
Prince Turki had issued a press statement already one day after the
handshake, in which he stressed that the handshake should not be
mistaken as recognition of Israel.

6. (SBU) Another brief discussion in the "Ana al-Muslim" forum was
sparked by the planned re-integration of "ordinary" Taliban into
Afghan society as proposed by Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul
at the MSC. One participant, sympathetic to the Saudi government,
criticized Al Qaeda and expressed his hopes for a reconciliation
between the Taliban led by Mullah Omar and the Karzai government.
The other participants ridiculed him for this statement.

7. (SBU) Overall the MSC was mentioned in 13 postings on jihadist
chat rooms. Most of the time participants posted articles from
other news outlets/agencies, such as Al Jazeera, DPA, AFP, or
Reuters. Besides the issues mentioned above, responses to the
articles in these chat rooms - if there were any - were unrelated to
the MSC and consisted of generic praises for the Taliban, the
"mujahedeen" and the like.

COMMENT
-------


MUNICH 00000034 002.2 OF 002


8. (SBU) The handshake between Ayalon and Faisal is an example of
the unexpected encounters and discussions which the informal setting
and the mixture of former and current government leaders at the MSC
can stimulate. The presence of TV cameras, the online live
streaming of the event and platforms like YouTube make news and
pictures spread fast, which apparently prompted Faisal's quick
caveats and explanations. While this incident along with other
factors caused an uptick in attention the MSC receives from Arab
media and chat rooms, this needs to be put in context. In general,
based on the fact that the overall number of chat room responses to
the articles mentioning the MSC was small, it seems the jihadist
chat rooms still do not have the Munich Security Conference on their
screens.

TRIBBLE

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