What does the Geneva II peace conference on Syria have in common with the Sochi Olympics? Why, that lovable rascal Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, of course.
Tomorrow, representatives of the Assad government sit down with Syria stakeholders to work out a plan for an interim government to end Syria’s three year old civil war. Russia and the US will have a seat at the table, but the most important actors beyond the Assad regime may not participate.
Here’s the thing: prior to last fall, elements of the jihadi rebels were funded, trained, and armed by cooperating agencies of the US and Saudi intelligence, historic allies and partners in crime. Apparently unbeknownst to Prince Bandar, the US was all the while in secret negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s regional arch nemesis Iran, whose vast, nearly untapped resource wealth and powerful Shia leadership threaten Saudi Arabia’s regional power.
The US double cross provoked Bandar on a parade of threats and bribes to salvage the Saudi’s plan for Syria. Volgograd was bombed in retribution for Russia staunch backing of Assad, and newly released video indicates that more attacks are planned at Sochi. Attacks will involve weapons “up to and including chemical ones.” Note that chemical weapons were also used against civilians in Syria by Bandar’s mercenaries.
After vicious, bloody infighting among the armed rebels in Syria that just happened to begin in earnest after secret US/Iran talks were revealed, opposition forces seem to be moving toward reunification. The political wing of the opposition that loosely represents the myriad competing rebel factions, Syrian National Council (SNC), voted to attend Geneva II.
Considering Bandar’s anger, you may ask what persuaded his jihadis to join Peace talks. Before the SNC voted on whether to attend, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met with contingents from Bandar’s proxy army.
During the meeting, Ford told the SNC figures that Saudi prince Bandar Bin Sultan is on long vacation in the United States, “because of sickness and psychological fatigue,” Hamade added, citing the Syrian opposition official who is also close to former Prime Minister, Riyad Hijab.
“We would like to inform you that there are some changes that will take place in Saudi Arabia next March,” Ford said, noting that these changes will reach Bandar Bin Sultan and Saud al-Faissal.
If Bandar is, in fact, in the United States for an extended stay, new questions arise. What exactly is the new relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia? Who in the Kingdom is in charge of Syria policy today and what will change in March? Why would Bandar come to the States for a long visit while relations with the US Government are so strained over the US’s policy turnaround in Syria? Is Bandar’s stay deliberately intended to coincide with the games in Sochi?
Regardless, the changes coming to the Kingdom’s hierarchy appear aimed at affecting Saudi policy in the Shia Crescent. The changes noted by Ford are specifically directed toward Bandar himself.
The US ambassador added that the Saudi committee for Lebanon and Syria (which compromises Abdulaziz Khoja, Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Al Saud and Muqren Bin Abdullah Al Saud) is to be activated and will take over the Lebanese and Syrian file from Bandar.
Saturday, Iran was invited to participate in Geneva II. Yesterday, the invitation was revoked when the SNC objected. The results of Geneva II, if any, are in question as long as Iran is excluded.
At any rate, it is clear that shifting alliances in the region are bound to bring more surprises.
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Photo by Russian Presidential Press and Information Office released under a Creative Commons license.