Prince Bandar bin Sultan out as the Kingdoms Spy chief. Supposedly at his request.
In a royal decree, the powerful official was “exempted… from his position at his own request” and replaced by his deputy, Yousef al-Idrissi.
Some insiders say his demise was brought on by his working with Al-Qaeda in Syria to try and bring down President Assad.
Saudi Arabia determined that they were one of the mains targets of Al-Qaeda when they attacked Saudi starting in 2003 and the tasked of stopping them was given to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Now the Syrian desk has been given over to Prince Mohammed to handle and it won’t be working with Al-Qaeda no matter if in the short term they would be effective in toppling Assad.
Bandar, a former ambassador to the United States, is widely regarded as among the most influential power brokers in the Middle East and was appointed intelligence chief in 2012.
But he went abroad in December for health reasons, with diplomats saying he had been sidelined in Saudi efforts to support rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
And in February, Prince Mohammed took part in a meeting in Washington of Western and Arab intelligence services to discuss Syria, confirming that Bandar had been shunted aside.
Bandar’s management of the Syrian conflict had triggered American criticism and the matter was discussed during US officials’ visits to the kingdom, diplomats said.
The prince himself reproached Washington for its decision not to intervene militarily in Syria, and for preventing its allies from providing rebels with much-needed weapons, according to diplomats.
Syrian state media and sympathizers in Lebanon have repeatedly lashed out at Bandar, accusing him of supporting Sunni Muslim radicals in Syria.
Over the years, Bandar achieved several major successes on the world stage.
For instance, he managed to convince Russia not to oppose UN resolutions to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait following Baghdad’s invasion of the emirate in 1990.
Bandar was also heavily involved in diplomatic contacts over the crisis in Lebanon that followed the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a key Saudi ally.
The outcry that followed the killing resulted in Syria’s withdrawal of troops and intelligence agents from its smaller neighbor, ending a three-decade presence in a boost to Saudi interests.
Born in 1949, Bandar is son of the late crown prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who died in 2011. He enjoyed close ties with then US President George Bush and his son, George W. Bush.
Bandar was a fixture in Washington for 30 years as the ambassador to the US and his trade mark little boy smile disarmed many people and many made the mistake of under estimating him.
It is also thought that the Saudis more confrontational approach of the last months has been led by Prince Bandar and the King thought it was time to rein him in and get back to more low key out of sight approach.
Moves in the last couple of days give some evidence that information from insiders that there would be moves to defuse the tensions with Qatar is moving forward with a hastily called meeting of the GCC council.