German intel warns Saudi Arabia is shifting to ‘impulsive interventionist policy’

© Jamal Saidi
In a rare case, German foreign intelligence BND warns that Saudi Arabia, one of the West’s closest allies, is tempted to play a destabilizing role in the Middle East, pursuing its "increasingly aggressive foreign policy."

Germany’s Federal Security Service (BND) has issued a policy paper that outlines the immediate risks coming from Saudi Arabia’s strong desire to become a dominant power in the Middle East, according to Der Spiegel's story.

The memo widely quoted by the Germany’s top newspapers says the “increasingly offensive foreign policy” has come in since the new Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, was crowned in January 2015. It reportedly says internal power struggles in the royal family and the ambition to unilaterally rule the whole region threaten to make the key Western ally a frequent source of instability in the Arab world.

“The current cautious diplomatic posture of senior members of the Saudi royal family will be replaced by an impulsive interventionist policy,” the BND memo was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying.

Within Saudi ruling circles, the BND singles out the king’s son, deputy crown prince and defense minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud as among those who are pushing for a new, far more aggressive and dangerous course, which explains the emerging threats coming from the new Saudi Arabian regime. Prince Mohammad bin Salman is believed to play a central role in Saudi Arabia’s move to invade neighboring Yemen, but he has also seized control over the kingdom’s economic assets, BND says.

The concentration of so much power in his hands “harbors a latent risk that in pursuit for establishing himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach,” Der Spiegel quotes the memo as saying. If that happens, “relations with friendly and above all allied countries in the [Middle East] could be more than worsened,” while the US influence over the region “will be neglected,” the memo says.

Both the ruling King Salman and his son, Prince Mohammad, are desperate to become “dominant rulers of the Arab world” through building up ”a strong military component and new regional alliances,” German intelligence agency’s memo reads. Mohammad, aged 30, is also described by BND as being keen to seize the throne after his father’s passing, though he is only second in the succession line behind the King’s nephew, 80-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

If that becomes a reality, the BND analysts write, the whole region would also face constant unrest because of a mounting rivalry with Iran. “Strategic struggle between the two countries based on religious and ideological hostility” is likely to unleash conflicts across neighboring Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain, with Riyadh not fearing to take “serious military, financial and political risks,” the memo warns. In Syria, it is a top priority for Saudi Arabia’s new royal family to make President Bashar Assad go, along with adding fuel to ongoing Syrian war, according to BND’s assessment.

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