Saudi royal suspected of ordering Khashoggi murder leads spy reform body

King Salman with Crown Prince MohammedThe Saudi royal who is suspected by the international community of having ordered the state-sponsored murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is now leading a committee to reform the Kingdom’s spy services. Khashoggi, 59, was a Saudi government adviser who became critical of the Kingdom’s style of governance. He moved to the United States and began to criticize Saudi Arabia from the pages of The Washington Post. He was killed on October 2 by a 15-member Saudi hit-squad while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in order to be issued a document certifying his divorce from his former wife in Saudi Arabia. After several weeks of vehemently denying any role in Khashoggi’s killing, the Saudi government eventually admitted that he was killed while inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

After conceding that Khashoggi was murdered inside its consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi monarchy pledged to punish those responsible and reform the Kingdom’s intelligence services. But reports in the international press have disclosed that nearly every major Western intelligence agency believes that Khashoggi’s murder was authorized by none other than Muhammad Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and heir-presumptive to the Saudi throne. In late October it was disclosed that Britain’s intelligence services had prior knowledge of a plot to target Khashoggi at the highest echelons of the Saudi government, and allegedly warned Riyadh not to proceed with the plan. And earlier this month it was reported by The Wall Street Journal that, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, bin Salman had exchanged text messages with the head of the 15-member hit-team in the hours prior to and following Khashoggi’s brutal murder in Istanbul.

However, not only has the Kingdom’s ruler, King Salman, rejected reports about the crown prince’s alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, but he has also appointed the controversial royal as the head of a ministerial committee to “restructure the General Intelligence Presidency”. The term refers to the primary intelligence agency of Saudi Arabia, which is also known as the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). The ministerial committee has reportedly met several times since October 19, when it was established by royal decree “in pursuit of achieving best international practices” in intelligence operations. On Thursday, Saudi media announced that the ministerial committee had drafted a document recommending “short-, medium-, and long-term development solutions” for restructuring the GID. Several measures were presented by the media as “urgent”. They center on creating a “department for strategy and development” whose task will be to ensure that intelligence operations are in line with the GID’s strategy and the Kingdom’s national security strategy. Another proposed measure involves creating a “general department for legal affairs” that will assess the compatibility of proposed intelligence operations with “international laws and charters and with human rights”. The committee also proposed the creation of a “general department for performance evaluation and internal review” to verify that intelligence operations have been carried out in a legal fashion.

Saudi media reports on Thursday made no mention of the controversy surrounding bin Salman’s presidency of the ministerial committee. For the past two months, the Kingdom has dismissed reports of the crown prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s murder as “fake news” promoted by its rival Qatar. It has also warned that any social media posts that promote “fake news” about the Saudi government’s involvement in the murder will result in up to five years’ imprisonment. Last month, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former director of the GID, rejected calls for an international inquiry into Khashoggi’s murder and said that Saudi Arabia would never agree to an international investigation into the case.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 December 2018 | Permalink

Saudi Arabia replaces spy chief who failed to deliver on Syria

Prince Bandar bin SultanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Saudi Arabia has replaced its intelligence chief, who is widely seen as the architect of the kingdom’s interventionist policy on the Syrian civil war. The government-owned Saudi Press Agency announced on Tuesday that prince Bandar bin Sultan had been “relieved of his post at his own request”. Bandar was born in 1946 to a concubine of crown prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, 12th son of Saudi monarch King Abdulaziz. In 1983, Bandar was appointed ambassador to the United States, a post he held until 2005. He developed numerous connections in Washington and rose to become a leading operator in Middle East affairs, enjoying to this day very close personal ties with Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 2012 he was appointed director of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, the country’s primary intelligence organization. Since that time, he has been the primary planner of Riyadh’s hawkish policy on the Syrian civil war, which has been to openly support the rebel groups fighting to oust the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia began supplying weapons, cash and intelligence to the Syrian rebels as soon as Bandar took control of the country’s intelligence apparatus. But his once close relations with Washington went sour last year, when he described US President Barack Obama’s refusal to launch military strikes on Syria as a “major shift” in American Middle East policy. He also angered the US by criticizing it’s rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is Riyadh’s major regional adversary. Perhaps most important of all, Bandar appears to have underestimated the strength of the al-Assad administration and over-confidently advising King Abdullah in 2012 that the Syrian government’s days were numbered. The stalemate in the Syrian civil war seems to have frustrated the Saudi government, which began to gradually distancing itself from Bandar’s musings since January. Read more of this post

Analysis: Bandar’s return affirms hawkish turn in Saudi foreign policy

Prince Bandar bin SultanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For over two decades, America’s relations with its most important Arab ally were primarily mediated by just one man: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. But on June 26, 2005, Bandar, a personal friend of the Bush family, submitted his diplomatic resignation, after being recalled to Riyadh by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. Almost immediately, Bandar, known for years in Washington’s diplomatic circles as a flamboyant socialite, disappeared from public view. It is said that he faced serious health problems, going in and out of hospitals. Others claim that he fell out of favor with Saudi Arabia’s autocratic ruling elite, and in 2009 there were even unconfirmed reports that he was under house arrest after allegedly trying to organize a military coup against King Abdullah. Last week, however, Bandar returned to the limelight in spectacular fashion: in a plainly worded statement, Saudi authorities announced that the Prince had been appointed Director General of the Mukhabarat Al A’amah, the Kingdom’s main intelligence agency.

To those who remember Bandar from his Washington days, which were filled with drinking and partying, it may seem incredible that the “peasant prince”, whose mother was one of Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s countless underage concubines, is now heading Saudi intelligence, in what is perhaps the most challenging period in the Kingdom’s history. Read more of this post

Would be al-Qaeda bomber was Saudi double agent

YemenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The man tasked by al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch to blow up an airliner bound for the United States last month, was a mole who had been recruited by Saudi intelligence. IntelNews understands that the double agent is a Saudi citizen who volunteered to act as an informant for Saudi authorities. The latter eventually tasked him with traveling to Yemen, joining al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and convincing its leaders that he was willing to carry out a suicide mission against Western targets. It is not known at this point whether the Saudis kept the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the loop from the moment the mole was sent to Yemen to join AQAP. What is known is that the man did indeed manage to penetrate AQAP and was eventually entrusted with attacking a civilian airliner with a custom-built bomb designed to fit seamlessly around his scrotum. However, instead of carrying out the suicide mission as agreed, the man left Yemen for Saudi Arabia and delivered both himself and the bomb to Saudi intelligence. The Saudis eventually notified the CIA of the foiled plot, before forwarding the deactivated explosive device to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is now studying it. Thus, initial media reports claiming that the CIA had foiled the attack appear somewhat stretched at this point, in light of the critical role of the Saudi mole inside AQAP. Read more of this post

Comment: Saudi Spies Take Over Yemen Border War

Saudi forces in Yemen

Saudis in Yemen

By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
Perceptive Middle East observers have been following the under-reported but escalating conflict along the Yemeni-Saudi border, in which Saudi and Yemeni government forces have joined forces in combating al-Qaeda-linked Yemeni rebels. It now appears that Saudi Arabia’s preeminent intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP) has assumed direct command of the conflict. What exactly is going on?

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Saudi spy chief brokers secret Afghan-Taliban talks

Prince Muqrin

Prince Muqrin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
British daily The Independent reports that the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai is now involved for the first time in direct secret talks with the Taliban. The negotiations are mediated by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a senior member of the Saudi Royal family, who heads Saudi Arabia’s main intelligence directorate, the Re’asat Al Istikhbarat Al A’amah (a.k.a. General Intelligence Presidency, GIP). Prince Muqrin, who knew Osama bin Laden personally in the 1970s and 1980s, has supervised the negotiations since last December, when envoys of the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency met in the Kingdom during the Muslim observance of Ramadan. Read more of this post