Prince Bandar Bin Sultan has been replaced as the Saudi Arabian intelligence chief. (Hassan Ammar/Agence France-Presse)
DUBAI — The Saudi Arabian intelligence chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, has been “exempted from his duties” today, according to a Royal decree issued by King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz.
According to the decree released at about 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the spy chief was relieved of his duties upon his own request.
Prince Bandar’s position will be filled in the interim by Lt. Gen. Yousif Bin Ali Al Idrissi, described by experts as a Saudi Arabian intelligence insider.
The 65-year-old member of the Royal House of Saud was the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. After his return to Riyadh he was named the secretary general of the National Security Council before being placed as the director of the Saudi Arabian Intelligence Agency in July 2012, replacing his cousin, Migrin Bin Abdulaziz.
Prince Bandar has been unwell since 2013, receiving treatment in the United States.
According to political analyst Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, professor of political science at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, this may be only part of the reason for Prince Bandar’s resignation.
“We all know that he has been feeling unwell lately and has been traveling abroad for medical reasons,” he said. “But this move is also a reflection that Bandar has not performed well in this role,” he said.
“He may have not lived up to the expectation he was given and maybe this is also an admission of failure on Syria because he was the appointed man on Syria file,” Abdullah added.
According to Abdullah, it is unclear who will take the Syria file but in the interim it has been handed to Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the Saudi minister of interior.
“Mohammed bin Nayef for the time is handling the Syrian file, according to insiders; however, who is going to take over the Syrian file in the future is still up for grabs,” he added.
During his tenure, Prince Bandar said that the Saudis would “shift away” from the United States over Syrian and Iranian policy, sparking a Gulf Cooperation Council-US crisis. He also allegedly confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin over Syria by stating, according to Russian press reports, that he can guarantee to protect the Sochi Winter Olympics by stopping the Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games and are allegedly controlled by the Saudis. ■