Russia, KSA at Loggerheads, the Collateral Damage of the Syrian Crisis

Written by | Monday, September 2nd, 2013
M. Guillermo Guttierrez

Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia are so tense over the Syrian crisis, with the Kremlin staunchly backing the Assad regime and Riyadh pressing for strikes on Syria, that President Vladimir Putin has reportedly issued earlier this week an urgent memorandum to the Russian armed forces ordering “a massive military strike” against Saudi Arabia in case an attack is launched against Syria.
According to press reports, tension between the two countries flared up after the visit Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Chief of General Intelligence, paid to Russia early August to try to strike a deal with Putin. According to these reports, Prince Bandar promised, if Putin stops backing the Assad regime, to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria when the Assad regime is toppled and pledged to protect the 2014 Winter Olympics to be hosted by Russia February 7-23 from the Chechen groups which have threatened the security of the games.
Also, the Saudis have reportedly offered Moscow a deal for cheap oil and safeguard of Russia’s gas contracts in exchange for dumping Assad and promised that the Chechens currently operating in Syria as “mere pressure tools” will not have any role in Syria’s political future.
The Saudi offers have seemingly been rejected with Putin insisting that his country’s stance on the Syrian President will not change.
Few days after Prince Bandar’s visit, Putin issued his “war order” because, according to Kremlin sources quoted by the press, he had been infuriated by his guest’s insinuations that Saudi Arabia would not restrain the Chechens from launching terrorist attacks during the Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia, if there is no accord, or would rather incite them to do so.
In another development, Business Insider commented recently on Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year civil war in Syria, saying that many observers believe that Bandar, who has very close ties with Washington and the CIA, having served as the KSA’s Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad and that his secret talks with Russia had been allegedly Okayed by the Americans.
While Prince Bandar is pushing for war and while the West is planning strikes, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich warned that “Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa.”
“The fact that agenda-driven regional mass media have begun an aggressive attack at once, as if on command, laying all responsibility on the government, draws attention,” Lukashevich said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“All this can only lead us to think that we are dealing again with a provocation planned in advance,” Lukashevich said, adding that “Moscow thinks that it is important to hold an objective and professional investigation of what has happened,” and “urges again all those who have the opportunity to influence armed extremists to make every effort to put an end to provocations with the use of poisonous chemical substances.”

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SECURITY & DEFENSE

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