Citing a King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud royal decree on Tuesday, the Saudi Press Agency said: “Prince Bandar was relieved of his post at his own request and Lieutenant General Youssef Al-Idrissi has been asked to carry out the duties of the head of general intelligence.”
Prince Bandar is also currently the head of the National Security Council, and it is still undetermined whether he would remain in his other posts or not.
Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to the United States, was appointed intelligence chief in July 2012. He was closely involved in Saudi support for Egypt’s military rulers after they ousted the first freely elected president Mohammed Morsi last year. The Saudi prince is also known to have had close ties with former US President George W. Bush, and was an advocate of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Lieutenant General Youssef Al-Idrissi was the deputy chief of general intelligence.
Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan is no more the leader of the Kingdom’s efforts to arm and fund the Takfiri terrorists who have been fighting the Syrian government, reports said.
He is said to be conducting plans to alter the situation in Syria according to his interests and has been travelling to Washington, Moscow, Paris and London to meet his partners on the matter.
Kingdom Shuffles while Bandar on a US-leash
With this in view, his intelligence chief Prince Bandar Ben Sultan has allegedly been accused of suffering from cognitive and fatigue problems following an attack of which he was the victim in July 2012, whereas Prince Saoud al-Faiçal, the Foreign Minister for 38 years, is said to be affected by senility.
For a week, various sources have reported Prince Bandar’s hospitalization in the United States to undergo surgery. During this time, a special emissary was purportedly sent by Washington to Riyadh for talks with the King and his son.
This change is emblematic of a new power struggle in Saudi Arabia. The battle of succession continues in Saudi Arabia, as major socioeconomic and political challenges loom large in a country whose leaders have yet to recover from the shocks of the 2011 Arab uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.
The mastermind and principal financier of terror networks, Prince Bandar has fallen out of favor with both Washington and Riyadh, especially in recent months in light of the fact that the Syrian crisis has assumed a terminal direction highly unfavorable to the Saudi ruling family.
Diplomatic sources said earlier that Washington had demanded the removal of Prince Bandar from the Syrian file because of his mismanagement of the situation in the country, which has been grappling with a foreign-backed crisis since March 2011.
On February 19, the Washington Post also reported that the Saudi interior minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who was thought to be the successor at first, had recently represented Saudi Arabia at a conclave of Western and Arab spymasters in the US, where he held talks with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and National Security Agency director Keith Alexander all sat down with the 54-year-old over the policies in Syria.
“Saudi Interior Minister Mohammad Bin Nayef, perhaps the most powerful younger prince in the ruling Al Saud family, is shaping Riyadh’s new emphasis on protecting the kingdom from a fresh wave of Islamist militancy inspired by the war in Syria”, Reuters reported.
Prince Mohammad is expected to be a central figure in the world’s top oil exporter for decades to come. Many Saudis say he is a strong candidate to become king one day.
“He’s now playing not only the role of Interior Minister, but also that of a senior diplomat and adviser to the king,” said Robert Jordan, US ambassador to Riyadh from 2001-03.
Observers close to the Saudi authorities expected Prince Bandar was unhappy that the Syrian and Iranian files were taken off his hands and given to his cousin, Interior Minister Prince Mohamed Bin Nayef.
He has been outside the Kingdom since he was marginalised by USA and did not attend the meeting between the Saudi King and the US President Barack Obama, which took place two weeks ago.
When he was in charge of the Syrian and the Iranian files, he supplied fighters in Syria with money and weapons. Bin Nayef has been restricting these supplies fearing their activities might affect the Kingdom.
It is important to note that Prince Mohammad escaped being killed by a suicide bomber back in 2009 who carried his bomb within his own body.
Bandar’s steering of Saudi foreign policy has proven counterproductive: Forging an alliance with the nuclear-equipped Pakistan to counterbalance Iran’s potential to grow as a nuclear power in the region and more significantly, Bandar has been a driving force behind the formation of the Islamic Front Coalition in Syria, a move that has yielded no benefits, insofar as their efforts have undermined the Assad regime and have left hundreds of thousands dead, wounded, displaced, or refugees.
Saudi is now aimed at containing militancy in Saudi Arabia, mending some fences with Washington over Syria, and adjusting the country’s foreign policy to rapidly changing geopolitical considerations in the region and curbing the increasing and expanding sectarianization of the Syrian conflict that has scarred and exacerbated the Middle East.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a Saudi analyst serving as an adviser to top royals said that the world will begin to see a “new strategy for Syria — quieter, more open, not too extreme. There will be more politics to it, and probably much less military.”
Saudi is in need of adjusting their regional and foreign policies, largely because the nuclear deal reached in the next 6-12 months by the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, plus Iran) would fundamentally alter the region’s balance of power.
Prince Bandar had to go for U.S. interests
Prince Bandar is widely believed to be the key figure trying to increase Saudi weapons flow to the foreign-backed militants in Syria fighting with President Bashar Assad’s government.
As the one-man show, Bandar was supplying weapons to the revolutionaries in the southern region of Syria i.e. through Jordan, especially those shipments that by-passes the American Coordination chamber in Jordan for monitoring arms to the rebels in southern Syria.
These shipments annoy America: About fifteen 15 tons of weapons reach the Free Syrian Army stores each week, which are funded by Saudi Arabia, purchased from black markets in Ukraine and Bulgaria before being sent onboard Saudi aircrafts to Airports in southern Jordan according to the published report on 10/28/2013 by French newspaper “Le Figaro”written by Georges Malbrunot.
The report also pointed out that “during the first six months of this year, about six hundred tons of weapons have been delivered to the opponents of the (Syrian President Bashar Assad) by Jordan”.
On 29 January, three military cargo planes landed in retail with weapons, including LAU rockets, encrypted communication devices and anti-tank missiles, light weapons and armored vehicles, As-Safeer newspaper published on 21/2/2014.
An Arab source said the Americans remain reluctant to provide Chinese-made missiles and sophisticated weapons to the Syrian armed opposition. The report also added: “Western and Arab security crossing sources say that during the battle for Al-Ghouta Al-Sharqiya (Eastern Ghouta), and the weeks that followed, the Saudis transferred through Al-Mafraq Airport loads of weapons some of which were purchased in Ukraine. Convoys carrying 15 tons of weapons have weekly crossed the Jordanian-Syrian border trough passageways across the desert to more than 15 centers in the region, stretching towards Al-Ghouta Al-Sharqiya”.
The arrival of the weapons was indicated that “the majority of armed factions in Daraa, had met yesterday and decided to unite under the banner of Firqat Al-Yarmouk which by then included 14 battalion and brigade, most notably the Armor Brigade South, Brigade Bara ibn Malik and the Armored Battalion”, published by As-Safeer on 06/02/2014. It added “the unification of the militants came parallel with a battle they launched in southern Syria, under the name Geneva of Houran, led by five operations rooms, spread over the entire province of Daraa”…
All this is disconcerting for the United States as there might be the possibility of some rebels in the southern front in getting out of its control. They have to be contained especially that there are forces in Saudi that are loyal to British and follow on its steps in terms of perturbing American plans, as it is known of British politics.
All this has made America afraid of Saudi activity in the southern front in Syria even though USA has established the Syrian revolutionaries front of the FSA and its base in the South, in response to the Saudi’s movements in southern Syria since 13th December 2013. America is taking the movements of Saudi in the south seriously, especially those movements that go beyond coordination with the American Chamber in Jordan.
BackStory: Sidelining Bandar, Blackmailing SNC made Geneva II Conference possible
Earlier this year, the US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford have ordered the foreign-backed opposition figures to take part in the international peace conference, noting that there are many changes in the Saudi policy regarding the Syrian crisis, according to the minutes of the meeting which were reportedly revealed to al-Manar News network by sources close to former Syrian prime minister Riyad Farid Hijab who defected to the militant side after the war started in Syria more than two years ago.
Quoting an official in the executive committee in the so-called “Syrian National Coalition”, Nidal Hamade said that Ford had called for an urgent meeting for the SNC figures in Turkey’s Istanbul, noting that the US envoy had threatened to cut funds for anyone who will not attend the meeting.
In addition to Ford, all SNC figures who were opposing Geneva 2 participation were at the meeting: Loay Safi, Anass al-Abdeh, Haitham al-Maleh, Burhan Ghalioun, Najeeb al-Ghadban and Maher Noaimi, Hamade wrote in his corner on al-Manar Website.
The sources said Ford was furious at the opposition leaders and censured them one by one at the meeting which was held mostly over the upcoming peace talks between the sides of the Syrian conflict dubbed Geneva II.
The American ambassador told Michel Kilo who is said to be one of the leading thinkers of the Syrian opposition, that “From now on your relation is with us not with Bandar bin Sultan and this has been decided based on our Saudi friends’ request,” The Arabic website wrote in its report.
Ford also told Haitham al-Maleh, another opposition figure who was a judge before the Syrian crisis started, “We have paid for your criminal hearing four times and we know that you have done nothing. We wanted you to work in luxurious offices and improve your financial condition. Now you have to support taking part in the Geneva II conference and find a legal way so that decisions are made with half of the coalition members plus one, instead of the two-thirds”.
Maleh was a political prisoner on several occasions since the 1960s. His most recent arrest was on 14 October 2009, a day after giving an interview on ‘Panorama’, a political analysis show on Barada TV, a London-based satellite channel associated with the Syrian opposition and allegedly funded by the US government. He was referred to the Damascus military court and tried on charges of spreading false and misleading information that would “affect the morale of the nation”, and sentenced to three years prison.
The US envoy told Burhan Ghalioun, a French Syrian professor of sociology at the Université de Paris III Sorbonne University in Paris, and the first chairman of the so-called Syrian National Council (SNC), that “You have been out long time ago”.
Ghalioun however said that he was willing to take part in the conference, and if anyone has told the American side that he was against it, they were all humors.
He then turned to Maher Al-Naimi and Jamal Maarouf, leaders of another opposition group called Syria Revolutionaries Front, and told them they need the group to be present at the talks. He said their supports would be cut if they refused to participate.
Ford further told members of the Turk delegation present at the meeting that, “you shouldn’t have more than one representative in the coalition but to get approval from the Turks we have given you more than you deserve. Now you have to agree with taking part in the conference”.
During the meeting, Ford told the SNC figures that Saudi prince Bandar Bin Sultan is on long vacation in the United States, “because of sickness and psychological fatigue,” Hamade added, citing the Syrian opposition official who is also close to former Prime Minister, Riyad Hijab.
“We would like to inform you that there are some changes that will take place in Saudi Arabia next March,” Ford said, noting that these changes will reach Bandar Bin Sultan and Saud al-Faissal.
“We also would like to tell you that the US had asked Saad Hariri (head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc in Lebanon) to participate in a coalition government with Hezbollah.”
The US ambassador added that the Saudi committee for Lebanon and Syria (which compromises Abdulaziz Khoja, Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Al Saud and Muqren Bin Abdullah Al Saud) is to be activated and will take over the Lebanese and Syrian file from Bandar.
Ford told the Syrian opposition figures: “Bandar’s plan for the Syrian conflict, put in 2012, had catastrophic repercussions on Syria and the region. It had made of Syria a powerful hub for al-Qaeda that US cannot confront. For that, you have to stop objecting and to go to Geneva 2, this is the US interest.”