Saudi spy chief, architect of Syria policy, replaced

RIYADH Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:29pm EDT

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the architect of Riyadh's attempts to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been removed from his post, state media reported on Tuesday.

His departure, months after he was quoted warning of a "major shift" from the United States over its Middle East policy, may help to smooth relations with Washington as Riyadh pushes for more U.S. support for Syrian rebels.

Prince Bandar, who has recently spent time in the United States and Morocco for medical treatment, was replaced on an interim basis by a deputy.

"Prince Bandar was relieved of his post at his own request and General Youssef al-Idrissi was asked to carry out the duties of the head of general intelligence," state news agency SPA said, citing a royal decree.

The decree did not say if Prince Bandar would continue in his other position as head of the National Security Council.

A former ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar was appointed intelligence chief in July 2012, in charge of helping Syrian rebels bring down Assad, an ally of Riyadh's biggest regional rival Iran.

He was also closely involved in Saudi support for Egypt's military rulers after they ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last year, diplomatic sources in the Gulf have said.

COMPLICATED COOPERATION

However, despite his longstanding connections in Washington and personal relations with world leaders stretching back decades, Prince Bandar proved a sometimes abrasive figure in his efforts to corral Western support for Syrian rebels.

Western officials have said in private that his comment in October about a "major shift" from the U.S. following President Barack Obama's decision not to use military strikes against Assad had complicated cooperation on Syria.

A trip to Moscow last year to push President Vladimir Putin to abandon his support for Assad also failed to produce results.

"He had been more or less disengaged from the Syrian file for the past five months. The responsibility was divided between a number of people - officers in the intelligence sphere and other princes. So the reality is that any changes have already happened," said Mustafa Alani, a security expert with close ties to Riyadh.

Saudi support for the rebels, including arms supplies, training and financing, has been hampered by infighting between opposition groups and difficulties in working out which of them pursued militant ideologies that could endanger Riyadh.

Earlier this year, Riyadh recalibrated its Syria policy to focus more on preventing militant groups there from posing an eventual threat inside the kingdom, something that was pushed by powerful Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

(Additional reporting by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (3)
acmavm wrote:
It’s ALL going to come back and bite them in the ‘end’, literally and figuratively.

Eventually al Quada will turn on the house of Saud.

Apr 15, 2014 5:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ausama wrote:
well, the next step i think that Saudia ought to push,must be based on supporting its relations with Iraq by cooperating with all political parties to set new bargin that prevents sharply any breakdown in their relation, Stable Iraq with strong powers was the safe wall for Saudia and he can play the same role even after dramatic change in 2003.

Apr 16, 2014 4:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
TruWorldPeace wrote:
The US should now refer this war criminal to the ICC, just like President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan. But this won’t happen because the US has perfected the art of double standards and hypocrisy.

Apr 17, 2014 1:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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