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  Middle East & Africa
End of Hawks in Saudi Arabia
Special Contribution
By Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui
American University
Bandar bin Sultan (born on March 2, 1949) is a member of the House of Saud. He was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005. In 2005, he was named as secretary general of the National Security Council. He was director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014.
Last week Bandar bin Sultan was pushed out of his job as Head of Intelligence. His was temporarily replaced by Gen. Youssef al-Idrissi until a member of the house of Saud is appointed to the vacancy. The decision to remove the Head of Intelligence is an indication that the domination of the hawks in Saudi Arabia is over, and the emergence of a new pragmatic policy that can lead to a détente and a reconciliation with Iran and Syria.

Since 2012, Bandar bin Sultan was instrumental in militarizing the Syrian uprising, and creating a very unstable environment that became a breeding ground for terrorists and global jihadists . His aggressive approach in the e Syrian conflict not only angered the Obama administration, but created deep division within the Gulf Cooperation Countries, and the already weak Arab League. The hawkish approach during the confrontation with the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the Gulf Wars became a thing of the past.

Bandar was the Saudi man in Washington DC. During his 22 years in office in the United States, he developed a very strong network of allies, and was often called “Bandar Bush,” because of his close relations with the Bushes.

However, his hawkish allies in the US were defeated and marginalized as the War in Iraq, and its aftermath turned to a quagmire. Under President Barack Obama, the rules of engagement have fundamentally changed. Bandar bin Sultan went further in 2013, by stating the US is no longer a reliable Saudi ally, and the Kingdom needs to reevaluate its relations with Washington. At a later date he visited Moscow to lobby Vladimir Putin to relinquish its support for Bashar al- Assad. His diplomatic shuttle ended up in disaster, and as a result, Bandar became a persona non grata in the US administration.

The “doves” in Saudi Arabia might have finally realized that times have changed, and that Iran has been recognized by the US and its European allies as a regional power, and its security needs to be accommodated. The days of bombing Iran, extracting Hezbollah from Lebanon, and weakening Syria as advanced by Turki al-Faisal in his Sept, 11, 2011 op-ed in the New York Times “Veto a state, lose an Ally,”- have been outdated, and the new realities on the ground require a realpolitik.

This was echoed by the Saudi ambassador in Britain Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in his op-ed “Saudi Arabia will go it alone,” in the NYTimes (12/17/2013) referring to Iran and Syria, he stated that “we will act… with or without the support of our Western partners.”

The reliance on the US or Israel to launch a military strike against Iran, Syria or Hezbollah can be disastrous for the region, and the international rules of engagement that were present during the Second Gulf War and the removal of Saddam Hussein are no longer in existence. The Saudi “doves” realized that continuous shipment of arms to the Syrian rebels without distinction has not proven to be successful, as Al Assad remains in power with the backing of Russia and Iran. The reluctance of Washington to support Saudi’s military solution of making the Gulf peninsula free from the Persian influence has isolated Saudi Arabia politically.

The ”doves” fear that as Syrian drags on, the returning Saudi fighters and Al-Qaeda members will make Saudi Arabia another Afghanistan. Numbers indicate that around 15,000 Saudis are fighting in Syria. The Saudi government recently declared that anyone involved in the Syrian fighting will be face prosecution. The expert on the Gulf region -Professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla from the UAE University- stated on his interview on CNN on April 17th, 2014 that “The moderates are coming in and they are going to set the agenda for the next stage," in Saudi Arabia.



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Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui is an adjunct professor of sociology at American University in Washington DC, where he received his MA and PhD in sociology. Prof. Zerougui’s writings have appeared on many respected media including the Washington Times and The Seoul Times.

 

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