April 17, 2014
The exit of Saudi’s spy chief was the result of US pressure over his stance on Syria but does not signal a shift in Riyadh’s goal of toppling the Damascus regime, experts say.
Riyadh, as is usual, did not elaborate on its statement this week that Prince Bandar bin Sultan was being replaced, saying only that the veteran diplomat had asked to step down.
But a Saudi expert said that Washington — irritated for some time by Prince Bandar’s handling of the Syria dossier — had in December demanded his removal.
Prince Bandar was leading Saudi Arabia’s efforts to finance, arm and unify the Syrian rebellion, which after three years of fighting is still far from its goal of overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The spy chief’s efforts were especially stymied by US objections to plans to supply the rebels with advanced weapons that could tip the military balance against Assad’s forces, which are increasingly gaining the upper hand on the ground.