Saudi Arabia Replaces Intelligence Chief

Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree Tuesday appointing a new intelligence chief after removing Prince Bandar bin Sultan "at his own request." He has been replaced by his deputy General Youssef al-Idrissi. Bandar was formerly ambassador to the United States and had control of Saudi Arabia’s Syria file. He had criticized Washington for not conducting ...

HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree Tuesday appointing a new intelligence chief after removing Prince Bandar bin Sultan "at his own request." He has been replaced by his deputy General Youssef al-Idrissi. Bandar was formerly ambassador to the United States and had control of Saudi Arabia's Syria file. He had criticized Washington for not conducting a military intervention into Syria. However, some analysts have said the prince had been disengaged from Syria policy for months, and that the file had been predominantly taken over by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Bandar recently returned to Riyadh after spending about two-months abroad for medical treatment. It is unclear if he will remain as head of the National Security Council.

Syria

The U.N. Security Council reviewed a series of photos Tuesday of bodies of people allegedly detained by the Syrian government who had been tortured and starved. The photos were said to have been taken by a defected Syrian army photographer known as Caesar. An international panel of experts hired by Qatar, which supports the Syrian opposition, deemed the photographs authentic, however the Syrian Justice Ministry dismissed the photos and an accompanying report as "lacking objectiveness and professionalism." France held the presentation pushing to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, opposition fighters appear to have obtained U.S.-made TOW anti-tank guided missiles. Online videos seem to show rebel forces using the missiles, which would be the first time a major U.S. weapons system has appeared in rebel hands. It is unclear how the opposition procured the weapons. While U.S. officials declined to comment on the origin of the weapons, they did not deny that the rebels possess them.

Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree Tuesday appointing a new intelligence chief after removing Prince Bandar bin Sultan "at his own request." He has been replaced by his deputy General Youssef al-Idrissi. Bandar was formerly ambassador to the United States and had control of Saudi Arabia’s Syria file. He had criticized Washington for not conducting a military intervention into Syria. However, some analysts have said the prince had been disengaged from Syria policy for months, and that the file had been predominantly taken over by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Bandar recently returned to Riyadh after spending about two-months abroad for medical treatment. It is unclear if he will remain as head of the National Security Council.

Syria

The U.N. Security Council reviewed a series of photos Tuesday of bodies of people allegedly detained by the Syrian government who had been tortured and starved. The photos were said to have been taken by a defected Syrian army photographer known as Caesar. An international panel of experts hired by Qatar, which supports the Syrian opposition, deemed the photographs authentic, however the Syrian Justice Ministry dismissed the photos and an accompanying report as "lacking objectiveness and professionalism." France held the presentation pushing to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, opposition fighters appear to have obtained U.S.-made TOW anti-tank guided missiles. Online videos seem to show rebel forces using the missiles, which would be the first time a major U.S. weapons system has appeared in rebel hands. It is unclear how the opposition procured the weapons. While U.S. officials declined to comment on the origin of the weapons, they did not deny that the rebels possess them.

Headlines

  • Two Australian men were killed in Yemen in November 2013 in a drone strike along with three known al Qaeda operatives.
  • Iraq has closed the notorious Abu Ghraib prison saying its location had become a "hot zone," however it is unclear if the closure was permanent.
  • A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators scheduled for Wednesday, which was to focus on extending peace talks, was postponed after an off-duty policeman was killed in the West Bank Monday.
  • Kuwait’s prime minister said a videotape that allegedly shows former senior officials plotting a coup has been "tampered with."

Arguments and Analysis

The Roots of Crisis in Northern Lebanon‘ (Raphael Lefèvre, Carnegie Middle East Center)

"The rise of Sunni extremism in Lebanon, and particularly in Tripoli, is also often explained away as a product of the Syrian crisis. However, although the radicalization of elements of the Syrian opposition undeniably has an impact, this trend has at least as much to do with national, and sometimes even local Lebanese dynamics as well. 

The past decade has borne witness to a growing feeling of socioeconomic and political marginalization on the part of Lebanon’s Sunni community. This leads many Sunnis to turn away from the state and look for alternative sources of support and protection, including joining certain Islamic groups that provide services or working with criminal networks in exchange for money. And this comes at a time when the Shia Islamist party Hezbollah seems to be at its military and political apex."

Algeria’s preordained election prods debate’ (Mansouria Mokhefi, European Council on Foreign Relations)

This election, which everyone agrees is already a done deal, will at least have opened the door for a genuine debate on the country’s future. Will Algeria enter a consensus-driven peaceful transition process towards institutional reform? Or will it see the radical transformation of a structure that many consider obsolete, impermeable, and illegitimate? Indeed, the risks of systemic collapse are greater than ever, and many think that the time has come to effect change not only through a reform from within but through a comprehensive systematic overhaul of the system.

One could also contend that despite minor opposition groups, the status quo remains unshakable in Algeria. Algerians also know that the creation of a vice-presidential office, whether it be held by Abdelmalek Sellal or Ahmed Ouyahia, the two favourites for this new post, is only being created to ensure that the regime can carry on even if president Bouteflika’s health deteriorates severely. Indeed, Algerians are being called upon to cast their ballots for a presidential candidate of their choice even though the result has likely been pre-determined. In reaction the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), the oldest opposition party, is keeping its distance from the elections, calling for neither participation nor boycott, because the 17 April vote ‘is only decisive for the regime’ in power. This will also explain the high abstention rate that is likely to mark the vote."

— Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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