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Controversial Saudi intelligence chief resigns

Bandar bin Sultan has resigned as intelligence chief with "immediate effect" and been replaced by his deputy
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's now former chief of intelligence (AFP)

Saudi Arabia’s chief of intelligence Prince Bandar bin Sultan has resigned and been replaced by his deputy Yousif bin Ali al-Idressi, the Saudi official news agency SPA announced on Tuesday.

The royal order will be “carried out by the concerned authorities with immediate effect," according to a statement on the SPA website. No reasons were given for the decision.

Bandar was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States for more than 20 years from 1983 until 2005, when he became secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council. He was appointed director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency in 2012 and put in charge of the country’s policy toward the Syrian conflict.

Saudi Arabia have strongly supported rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and urged military intervention by the US after a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb last August. The Americans decided against airstrikes after a deal was struck with Assad to destroy his chemical weapons supplies.

Perceived mismanagement of the Syrian file sparked criticism of Bandar from American officials in visits to the Kingdom, diplomats have told AFP. The diplomats also said the prince himself admonished the US for failing to intervene militarily in Syria and criticised their decision not to arm rebel groups.

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Bandar recently returned to Saudi Arabia after travelling overseas for medical treatment and was replaced as intelligence chief by Mohammed bin Nayef, Interior Minister, in his absence. He has not been seen in public for months.

Little is known about the new intelligence chief Lieutenant General Yousif bin Ali al-Idressi, who has been Bandar’s deputy since 2012.

Social Media Reactions

Commentators on Saudi Arabia have been quick to react to the news on Twitter.

"The resignation of Bandar indicates Bandarism policy which dominated Saudi foreign policy is over. It is an admission of failure in Syria too." Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science at Emirates University, tweeted.

"Bandar's been out of the picture for most of this year. Today's move just made it official," commented Ellen Knickmeyer, reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Riyadh.

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