The New York Times reported Saturday on a longstanding CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia, whose current manifestation is the joint program to arm Syrian rebels, a program that President Obama authorized in early 2013. According to the Times account, under that secret program called “Timber Sycamore,” the Saudis provided funding and purchased weapons for existing Syrian rebel factions, and the CIA trained the fighters in secret camps in Jordan.
The Times account, however, was carefully written to exclude certain known features, including the existence of the Anglo-Saudi “Al Yamamah” deal, dating back to 1985, in which the British and the Saudis used an oil-for-arms barter deal to create massive offshore “black” accounts, used to bankroll and arm a wide range of global insurgencies. While the CIA-Saudi intelligence partnership is unquestionably accurate, it is a subsumed “junior partner” feature of the much more solid Anglo-Saudi alliance.
According to the New York Times account, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who ran Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) at the start of the Syrian destabilization, purchased large amounts of weapons in Eastern Europe and provided them, with CIA assistance, to the various Syrian rebel groups, including groups that were actually al-Qaeda fronts.
Again, the Times told a half-truth. In addition to Eastern Europe, there was a well-documented flood of weapons that went to Syrian rebels from Benghazi, Libya, in a joint British/American intelligence program that was partly exposed with the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission there. Those weapons, confiscated after the overthrow and assassination of Qaddafi, were funneled through Qatari and Turkish channels into Syrian rebels, including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Former U.S. DIA head Gen. Michael Flynn has publicly exposed the Obama Administration’s own involvement in arming the Syrian rebels, despite DIA warnings that this would only strengthen the hard-core jihadists, and could lead to the creation of a caliphate in the Syrian-Iraqi border region.
When Prince Bandar was bounced as head of the GID, the program, the Times reported, was turned over to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Kingdom’s Interior Minister and Crown Prince. Bin Nayef was close with CIA Director John Brennan, dating back to Brennan’s tenure in the late 1990s as CIA Station Chief in Riyadh.
The Times account made clear that the Saudi-CIA partnership dated back much further. In the late 1970s, when the CIA was under intense Congressional scrutiny and restricted in its operations, the Saudis created what was called the “Safari Club,” a multinational covert intelligence program, involving Morocco, Egypt and France, to carry on some of the CIA’s covert operations in Africa.
During the Reagan years, as is well known, the Saudis poured money into the Afghan mujahideen, matching U.S. Congressional funding dollar for dollar. The Saudis also, courtesy of Bandar, gave $32 million to the Contras, through Cayman Islands bank accounts. The mujahideen funding ran through CIA-managed bank accounts in Switzerland. Those accounts were, in fact, likely part of the “Al Yamamah” program as well, which was a major source of money to the Afghan war against the Soviets.
The Times story barely mentioned the fact that the Saudis have been a major source of funding to ISIS and Nusra throughout the Syrian war, which shows how the Anglo-Saudi combine plays both sides in the conflict, to maximize the death toll and create permanent chaos. The Times briefly cited William McCants, a former State Department counterterrorism advisor, pointing to the hypocrisy of partnering with the Saudis in any kind of anti-jihad coalition, since the Saudis are the biggest patrons of the jihadi terror.