Saudi spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been relieved of his duties at his request, the official Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday.
“A royal order announced here today that Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz was relieved of his post as Chief of General Intelligence upon his request and that General Staff Yousif bin Ali Al-Idreesi was assigned to act as Chief of General Intelligence,” the Saudi Press Agency wrote, adding the shuffle is to take effect immediately.
Bandar’s acting successor, Gen. Al-Idressi, has been serving as Saudi Arabia’s deputy intelligence chief.
No explanation was provided for the move, which came after Bandar had reportedly been recovering from shoulder surgery in the US and Morocco in recent months.
“It’s the first authoritative news we have had on Bandar for months but is infuriatingly incomplete,” Simon Henderson, a Gulf expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said. “The big question is ‘why?’ rapidly followed by ‘what does it mean?’”
Saudi expert David Ottaway told the Wall Street Journal the move could be understood as part of a wider shift in recent months in which the Saudi leadership had found Bandar’s Syria strategy had over promised and under delivered, the paper said.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has taken control of the Saudi Syria file in recent months. Bin Nayef’s “appointment reflects shifting U.S. interests in the Syrian conflict, as both the Americans and Saudis increase their focus on countering al-Qaeda influenced groups fighting in the civil war there,” the Journal wrote.