Saudi Intelligence Chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, has not been seen in public since the bombing of the general intelligence headquarters in Riyadh last week. Speculations spread that the Prince was injured or possibly killed. His deputy Marshal, Al Qarni, was confirmed dead during the attack, which was suspected to be a revenge operation of the Syrian intelligence death squad.
The Saudi government issued a news blackout on the bombing. A report from Tehran Times cited an article from Voltaire Network, an international non-profit organization, based in Paris, quoting unofficial sources that the Prince was killed during the attack.
The story said Syria retaliated against Bandar’s participation in the Damascus bombing, which killed President Bashar Assad’s brother in-law and three top security officers. Tehran Times cited Saudi Arabia has been recently active in leading plots against Syria ,and the bombings in Damascus and Riyadh indicated a growing hostility between the two countries.
A related report from DEBKAfile cited its sources doubt the capability of the Syrian Intelligence squad to penetrate Riyadh and stage an attack. They speculated that it was orchestrated by Iran. According to the report, Iran initiated the Al Qaeda bombings in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004. DEBKA does not always have accurate reports, but when they are correct, they are usually ahead of the rest of the media.
Prince Bandar assumed his position as Director of the Saudi Intelligence Agency after Saudi King Abdullah appointed him last July 19. Prior to his position, he was the Secretary General of the National Security Council of Saudi Arabia. He also served as the Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005.
The Saudi government has not released any statement regarding Prince Bandar’s death or injury. The Syrian government was also silent on the report.
The silence of the Kingdom regarding the true situation of Prince Bandar increases concerns in the Middle East and the United States governments.
Syria’s top ally in the region is Iran. If Saudi thinks Syria is behind the assassination, fingers will be pointed towards Iran. Additionally, Iran has far more capability to strike overseas than Syria. Iran has targeted Israelis in Bulgaria, India, Thailand, and other countries in the past few months. Iran allegedly tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to America.
An Iranian lawmaker today, called Saudi Arabia the “Enemy of Egyptian Revolution.” Saudi Arabia views itself as the most important Sunni muslim country, while Iran is the largest shia muslim country. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is an Arab country, while Iran’s population is mostly ethnic Persians.
If the Intelligence Chief was assassinated, Saudi is likely to retaliate. With the civil war in Syria and sanctions on Iran, a large scale conflict cannot be ruled out.
Meanwhile, it was also reported on July 29 that the United States government re-opened its investigation against Prince Bandar, regarding allegations that he received bribes from BAE Systems, the largest arms dealer in United Kingdom. The British government first launched the investigation in 2006, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to find out if the British company violated the U.S. laws prohibiting corruption. According to the report, BAE systems paid millions of dollars in bribes to the Prince, when the company was negotiating to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.