World News

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced



Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has stepped down from his post. His resignation came at "his own request," according to Saudi state media. The 65 year old prince is being replaced by his deputy, General Youssef al Idrissi.

Bandar had been spearheading Saudi efforts to unseat Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the bitter and bloody Syrian civil war, supporting various Sunni rebel factions. The Saudi prince had faced criticism for reportedly working with al-Qaida as part of those efforts.

American University of Beirut Professor Hilal Khashan told VOA that supporting al-Qaida is a sore spot in the kingdom, which struggled 10 years to evict the group from its soil.


"There was a prelude to dismissing him a few months ago. The Saudis announced they would put on trial any Saudi fighting in Syria and Bandar invested in supporting al-Qaida in Syria, he wanted to get rid of the Syrian regime at any cost, even to the point of working with al-Qaida. So, the moment the Saudis decided to ban Saudis from going to Syria it became clear Bandar's approach to Syria has failed and the Saudis were about to alter their policy on Syria."


Khashan says other Saudi princes feared Bandar's support for al-Qaida in Syria would come back to haunt them


"He fell from grace because obviously he failed in Syria. Since 2006, when he was appointed as the kingdom's intelligence boss, he disappeared from the scene four times, mainly because he kept clashing with members of the royal family. He is a difficult person and I understand he is arrogant and was sent abroad on the pretext of seeking medical service."


Security analyst Anthony Cordesman, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, is more cautious assessing the reason for Bandar's resignation. He spoke to VOA via Skype.


"Let's be blunt. First, this kind of speculation about changes in the Saudi royal family has a history of decades worth of being wrong. In the case of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, there are a couple of realities to understand…he's had a long history of medical problems….he's had a long history of working well with the King and the royal court. Now, no one can dismiss the possibility that a policy issue was involved, but when you have this kind of medical history and this kind of relationship with the other princes one has to be very careful about saying that this is a policy related issue.


Cordesman also disputes suggestions that Bandar was the main funder or control point for radical militants in Syria.

Prince Bandar's resignation was cheered by Saudi adversaries including Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Could Bandar's departure provide any possibility of improved understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran? Cordesman doesn't think so.


"You have to be very careful here. Prince Saud, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, has been absolutely clear about his concern over Iran's role in Iraq, Iran's role in Bahrain, Iran's role in Yemen and Iran's role in Syria and Lebanon. Now one could argue whether all of those concerns are valid or not, but this is the position that is certainly the official position of the Saudi government…..at least as yet, Prince Bandar's role is not going to make that kind of shift."


Prince Bandar was a well-known figure in Washington, where he served as Saudi ambassador for nearly 30 years. But his more recent relations with the United States had been rocky. He reportedly criticized the Obama administration for not supplying Syrian rebels with heavy weaponry and was reported to have threatened on several occasions to affect a "major shift" away from the Saudi kingdom's long alliance with Washington.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs