Saturday, April 20, 2024

CIA chief voices frustration over Saudi relations with Iran, Syria: Report

Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Burns has reportedly expressed frustration over Riyadh's outreach to Tehran and Damascus.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US spy chief traveled to Riyadh at an undisclosed time this week to discuss intelligence cooperation.

During a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Burns complained that Washington feels “blindsided” by Riyadh’s moves to restore ties with Iran and Syria.

He expressed the US frustration at being left out of regional developments.

This comes as Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations on March 10 after intensive talks mediated by China in Beijing.

Top diplomats of the two countries held a landmark meeting on Thursday to mark the official restoration of ties.

In a joint statement the sides stressed the need to implement the Chinese-brokered agreement and pave the way for enhanced cooperation and contribute to regional security. They also pledged to take the required measures to reopen embassies and diplomatic missions.

The top Iranian and Saudi diplomats have also expressed gratitude to Beijing for hosting their meeting as observers have pointed to the increasing influence of China in the region amid the waning US role.

Washington reacted to the Iran-Saudi rapprochement with skepticism, saying that it would wait to see the results.

Tehran and Riyadh have shown to be serious about the resumption of ties as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has accepted an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to visit Riyadh.

Meanwhile, Burns’s comments are in contrast with Washington’s official line that Riyadh kept informed of its talks with Iran to restore diplomatic relations.

“The Saudis did keep us informed about these talks that they were having, just as we keep them informed on our engagements,” White House spokesman John Kirby stated last month.

In another foreign policy shift, Riyadh has also taken steps to reestablish ties with Damascus amid Washington’s opposition. The Kingdom is set to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit in May.

According to reports, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is expected to travel to Syria in the coming weeks to personally deliver a formal invitation to Assad.

The latest Burns’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes as he has gained a reputation as the White House’s “back-channel” emissary for sensitive foreign policy missions.

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