By: Reza Kahlili
November 24, 2013
U.S. Secretary of the State John Kerry has warned Saudi Arabia to back off interfering in the Syrian civil war, according to Fars News Agency, the Islamic Republic media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards.
Kerry had been in Riyadh recently to calm Saudi fears of an upcoming agreement with Iran that would leave the Islamic Republic’s nuclear infrastructure largely intact. The Sunni kingdom is one of the main sponsors of the rebels trying to take down Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime, while Shiite Iran is Assad’s staunchest ally. Saudi Arabia and Iran are battling each other for leadership of the region.
The Fars report comes in the wake of what is being called a historic agreement with Iran that leaves much of its nuclear program untouched and allows it to continue enrichment to the 5 percent level. Israel and Saudi Arabia oppose any Iranian nuclear capability.
Fars, quoting the Lebanese Al-Manar news channel, reported that Kerry had pressured the Saudi kingdom to curtail the espionage activities of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency.
The report indicated that the Obama administration is so serious about this issue that the CIA has halted its collaboration with the Saudi Intelligence Agency.
“The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is angry at the positions adopted by Prince Bandar on the Syrian case since it thinks that he manages the case through collaboration and collusion with the neoconservative groups in Washington that seek to spoil Obama’s policies on Syria, Iran and even Russia,” al-Manar stated.
Fars asserted that an informed source told the news agency that Prince Bandar has spent tens of millions of dollars in Washington to try to convince American politicians to support an attack on Syria. The source said that Bandar’s failure to affect the events in Syria have caused differences within the ruling family, with many members writing a letter to King Abdullah protesting the lack of progress in toppling the Assad regime.
As reported in the Daily Caller in August of 2012, Iran at one point was preparing for a direct attack on Saudi Arabia, should Syria’s Assad be in danger of falling to rebel forces. Iran also blames the Saudis for unrest in two of its provinces.
“Dozens of Iranian ballistic missiles have been preprogrammed to hit Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia,” a source said then. “Qatar will also be hit at the same time as it is directly involved with the events in Syria.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a proxy war from Yemen to Bahrain, Iraq and Syria where the ruling Shiite clerics in Iran have tried to undermine the Saudi influence in the region and vice versa.
Iran has accused the Saudis of arming the rebels to destabilize Assad’s regime while the Saudis blame the Shiite regime for trying to destabilize the Sunni monarch in Bahrain by sabotage and incitement to uprising among the majority Shiites.
Iranian leaders have on several occasions called for the removal of the Saudi monarch.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).