By Gil Elan
As predicted in this column last week, King Salman’s handlers wasted no time in firing many of the late King Abdullah’s top ministers and advisors, and replacing them with his own family members.
Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies wrote Jan. 30, “Just two days after President Obama’s visit to Riyadh, King Salman has sacked several of the princes who met with the U.S. delegation.”
According to U.S. and Saudi reporting of the Jan. 27 summit, talks between the two leaders were dominated by national security topics, including Iran, the “Islamic State”/ISIS, and Yemen. It is therefore surprising that the most senior departure is Prince Khaled bin Bandar, the head of Saudi intelligence, who sat near the king during the discussion…Also out is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council, former ambassador to Washington, and former intelligence chief who was viewed as one of the late King Abdullah’s closest confidants.”
Bandar has excellent relations with the U.S. and Israel, and functioned as a mediator between the U.S. and several Arab despotic regimes, including Syria under both Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad.
Henderson continues: “Another casualty is King Abdullah’s son Prince Turki, the sacked governor of Riyadh province who had greeted President Obama at the airport and bid him farewell upon his departure. Prince Mansour bin Mitab bin Abdulaziz — the minister of municipalities and rural affairs, who was in the welcoming line for the president, was demoted to ‘advisor.’”
Henderson points out that the pro-USA and social reform-minded Crown Prince Muqrin has no ministerial portfolio. This is unprecedented and leaves him without a political power base. It also indicates that he will lose that title very soon in favor of a less pro-western son of the new king.
In addition, the new heads of the Justice Ministry and Religious Police are considered less reform-minded than their predecessors.
So far, Israel is taking a cautious wait-and-see position, having anticipated these moves long ago, and establishing lines of communication for various possible scenarios. Both countries have more common interests in the region (Iran Nukes, ISIS) than not.
As for the U.S.-Saudi relations, the general assumption is that any agreements or deals discussed in the past and during the president’s short condolence visit will have to start from scratch.
Most of the top officials they met during the visit (and have been working with for years) are now gone, and the new ones seem to be much more conservative and not afraid to voice their disappointment and mistrust of the U.S. for not fulfilling the famous “red line” commitment regarding stopping Iran’s military nuclear and missile programs.
Worse than that — like the Israelis they see the almost completed upcoming “deal” between Iran and the P5+1 negotiators as a total capitulation to Iran, and a clear, shiny and very bright American “green light” for Iran to build and stockpile nuclear weapons and powerful long-range missiles…under the absolutely ridiculous and unenforceable strategy of “containment.” Meanwhile the Iranians are laughing all the way to outer space…
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org. DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.