August 1, 2012 at 16:19:03
Promoted to Headline (H3) on 8/1/12: Permalink
Where is Prince Bandar?
By Pepe Escobar (about the author)
Cross-posted from Asia Times
Thunderous silence prevails on Syrian, Iranian and Arab media (most of it controlled by the Saudis). The same applies for al-Jazeera. This is DEBKA's somewhat fanciful take.
Dates are crucial. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud may have pulled off operation "Damascus Volcano" on July 18. He was definitely promoted to head of Saudi intelligence on July 19. And he might have been killed in a bomb attack on the Saudi General Intelligence HQ in Riyadh on July 22.
One Syrian rumor mill version rules that "Damascus Volcano" came from Saudi intel -- with logistics provided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is highly unlikely; the CIA is clueless on how to penetrate Assad's inner sanctum. The predominant version circulating in the Syrian capital is this was a white coup.
"Damascus Volcano," by the way, was a flop; the swarm of mercenaries -- infiltrated via Jordan -- who were supposed to take over the capital had to retreat up north. Now the news cycle is fixated on another faux game-changer -- the "Battle of Aleppo."
There are serious problems with all the spin around "Damascus Volcano." None of the Assad regime's four heads of military intelligence were killed -- they are actually running the (ghastly) show in Aleppo.
There are also problems with a Syrian death squad being able to strike Riyadh's inner sanctum. But Iranian intelligence could certainly pull this off. As for Debka's assumption that Tehran may have hired al-Qaeda jihadis for an inside job against the House of Saud, that is rubbish.
The bottom line; no one knows, because no one is talking.
What is certain is that Bandar as head of Saudi intelligence was part of King Abdullah's hardcore response to the Arab Spring.
In Syria, the House of Saud strategy boils down to regime change -- and a fragile, fragmented, Sunni government in Damascus not aligned with Tehran.
Internally, the strategy is to viciously smash any peaceful Shi'ite-majority protest in the eastern provinces. Essentially, there's no Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia because the House of Saud either bribes or intimidates its subjects.
The overall strategy of choice is "blame it on Iran"; as this logic goes, Saudi Shi'ites are Iranian puppets as much as Bahraini Shi'ites. The Obama administration blindly subscribes to this fallacy -- totally missing the point; the House of Saud hates any semblance of Western parliamentary democracy as much as it hates Shi'ites -- Iranian and otherwise.
So what happened in Riyadh? A graphic Tehran message to the House of Saud? A rogue suicide bomber? An internal Saudi war? The House of Saud is not talking. And Bandar is not moving.