World Bulletin / News Desk
Saudi Arabia has replaced intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz with its former ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Press Agency said on Thursday, citing a royal decree.
Prince Bandar, who was the kingdom's envoy to Washington for 22 years, a period spanning the first Gulf War and the Sep 11 2001 attacks on the United States, takes the portfolio at a time when Saudi Arabia faces growing instability in its immediate region.
"There was a feeling that we needed stronger intelligence and Bandar has a history of this sort," said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi commentator with ties to the royal family.
"We are witnessing the start of a new Middle East with the collapse of the (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad regime. We are worried about Jordan and Lebanon," he said.
Bandar has headed Saudi Arabia's National Security Council for seven years but has shunned the limelight since leaving his Washington post in 2005.
"He's been close to that position heading the National Security Council and is very well aware of the intelligence apparatus. He's also been involved in Saudi security issues of the highest order for the last 10 years," said Robert Jordan, U.S. ambassador to Riyadh from 2001-03.
Jordan, who said he worked closely with Prince Bandar during that time, and described him as "the ultimate shuttle diplomat", said the appointment might help strengthen the alliance between Washington and its closest Arab ally.
Prince Bandar is a son of the late Crown Prince Sultan, who died last October and had served as defence minister for five decades.
In the sprawling ruling family, Sultan was one of seven brothers born to the kingdom's founder by his favourite wife and known collectively as the Sudairis, who formed the strongest power bloc in the House of Saud.
The kingdom's new heir apparent, Crown Prince Salman, is also a Sudairi, as is the new Interior Minister Prince Ahmed.
The royal decree carried by SPA said outgoing intelligence head Prince Muqrin, the youngest son of the kingdom's founder Abdulaziz ibn Saud, had been appointed a special envoy and adviser to King Abdullah, who is 89.
It added that Prince Bandar would retain his role as secretary general of the National Security Council.
Key issues will be discussed in face to face peace talks between Yemen's warring parties
Unofficial, incomplete results from Iran's parliamentary runoff election show 33 to 40 of the 68 seats being contested went to allies of President Hassan Rouhani
Russia's state-run TASS reports US and Russia agree on 72-hour cease-fire in Latakia starting just after midnight Saturday
Syria’s Kurdish National Council slams PYD parading dead bodies of FSA fighters as 'brutal and barbaric'
'The violence is soaring back to the levels we saw prior to the cessation of hostilities,' UN human rights chief says
'This announcement came after a request from the Americans and the Russians, who met in Geneva to calm down the situation in Damascus and Latakia'
In the first four months of the year, authorities deported 14,400 expats, compared with 26,600 in the whole of 2015
Russian and Syrian warplanes have intensified attacks against civilians in Aleppo’s opposition-controlled areas
'The persistent failure of the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court is an example of the most shameful form of realpolitik,' Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says
Iranians has begun voting on Friday in a second round of parliamentary elections with allies of President Hassan Rouhani seeking to wrest seats from hardliners.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim al-Thani proposes free trade agreement involving Turkey and Arab countries
'l could not in any way express how high the stakes are in the next hours and days,' head of UN humanitarian efforts says
'It's no secret that the Syrian army has prepared this decisive battle with its allies. It will not take long to begin, nor to finish,' a pro-regime daily says
The new amendments allow the king to choose his successor, the judiciary's chief and the head of the constitutional council
'The Syrian cessation of hostilities is in great danger and could collapse at any time,' says UN envoy on Syria