On February 17 the Iranian TV reported that the director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince Bandar may soon be dismissed. At present Bandar is in Washington, where he is undergoing treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital and planning to meet with U.S. Senator John McCain.
On the same date a number of electronic outlets revealed the name of his possible successor – a 54 -year-old Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom back in November of 2012, and prior to it he was serving in the capacity of Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs. In this department he became known for his effective counter-terrorism measures and the fight against “the misguided sect”, that is how “Al- Qaeda” called in KSA. In 2009, Mohammed bin Nayef survived an assassination attempt, he got off with minor injuries and burns. Mohammed bin Nayef is a nephew of the Saudi monarch and the son of the crown prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud who died in June 2012. Crown prince occupied the position of Minister of Interior for decades. So it’s not surprising that Muhammad bin Nayef is viewed by many as the next King of Saudi Arabia.
It may seem that’s it’s still too early for Prince Bandar to step down, since he has been working in the capacity of director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency for only 18 months, while enjoying King Abdullah’s favor. But on top of the possible health conditions, his resignation can be provoked by a number of factors. Today Bandar is the chief mastermind in Saudi Arabia responsible for the attempts to overthrow the Syrian regime, including those that imply cooperation with terrorists. The same kind of “attention” was applied by Bandar to Iraq, where the Shiite majority led by Al-Maliki Nuri was in power. However, despite his generous financial support, all of Bandar’s attempts failed. Next step is his involvement in the clearly fabricated case of alleged usage of chemical weapons by Syrian authorities, while those “substances” were delivered from Libya for the opposition members and later used by the them. And then Prince Became became careless. Last year Bandar has been to Moscow twice, where he tried to blackmail Russia’s president Vladimir Putin by stating that the controls North Caucasian militants that may attack Sochi-2014 Olympic Games, should Moscow refuse to change its standing on Syria. In this manner Bandar decided to scare Russia off. Also one should not forget that the Prince was suspected of involvement in the tragedy of September 11, 2001, when he was employed as the Saudi ambassador for Washington.
It’s clear that now the rulers of KSA along with the U.S. officials are trying to detach themselves from any connections with the man who did not hesitate to use terrorism as a means of achieving his political goals and thus crossed all the thinkable “red” lines. The fight for Saudi throne is on, and the ruthless Prince Bandar with his rogue trick can easily face any other competitor.
As for Mohammed bin Nayef he fits the role of the future monarch well, being a representative of the younger generation along with having a hard earned reputation of a terrorist fighter.
Should we witness some concrete steps in the near future that would allow the replacement of Bandar, since the changes are really awaited in this excessively conservative kingdom.
Viktor Titov, PhD in History, a political observer on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.