RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has replaced intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the kingdom’s pointman on the Syrian conflict, “at his own request,” the official SPA news agency announced yesterday.
In a royal decree, the powerful official was “exempted... from his position at his own request” and replaced by his deputy, Yousef Al Idrissi.
Bandar, a former ambassador to the United States, is widely regarded as among the most influential powerbrokers 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 Al Assad.
They said the Syrian dossier has been transferred to the interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who cracked down on Al Qaeda following a wave of deadly attacks in the Gulf state between 2003 and 2006.
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 file had triggered American criticism.
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.