Saudi National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan spends more time in Amman than Riyadh, because it is from the Jordanian capital that he is running the Saudi clandestine operation in support of the opposition inside Syria.
His proximity to the action (See separate item in this issue on the Syrian revolt) means that Syria's protesters are not short of a petrodollar or two for organizing demonstrations. Funds relayed from Amman to Iraq and Lebanon also pay for the weapons smuggled into Syria for their use.
The Saudi prince has provided the Syrian uprising with a well-oiled propaganda machine. While foreign correspondents are barred by the Syrian authorities, Bandar's video cameras record the brutalities they perpetrate and the film is smuggled back to Amman and Beirut whence they reach broadcasting studios worldwide.
In March and April, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his military and intelligence advisers were at a loss over how to deal with the Saudi assistance rendered to the rebels. They feared that once demonstrators starting using the smuggled arms to shoot back at Syrian security forces and troops, they would touch off a wave of desertions and the army on which the regime depends for its survival would fall apart.
Iranian police chief helps Assad suppress protests with less deaths
They finally resorted to live fire into crowds of demonstrators from tanks, artillery, commandos and snipers.
As a result, at least 1,000 civilians have been killed since the uprising began. This tops the numbers killed in the unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and the ongoing revolt in Yemen and comes close to the civilian death toll in Libya's civil war.
In the last week of April, Maj.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades, spoke to Assad using the words widely expected in the West and Arab world to have come from President Barack Obama: According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources, the Iranian general said:
Stop killing so many people, because if you continue at this rate, you will reach a moment of crisis when Syrian officers and soldiers refuse to continue the massacre. You are only strengthening the rebels and giving them a powerful propaganda weapon, both inside and outside Syria.
Gen. Suleimani advised the Syrian president to invite Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Radan, Deputy Chief of Iran's Police force who led the suppression of the mass demonstrations in Tehran which rocked the regime in June and July 2009. He said Brig. Radan and his staff would work alongside the heads of the Syrian military and security services and instruct them in methods for dispersing armed protesters at a lower cost in life.
Assad agreed and on May 1, an Iranian military plane landed Radan and his staff in Damascus.
The Syrian uprising begins to fade
The Iranian brigadier is notorious for his extreme brutality toward political prisoners but also for his efficiency. He did not just sit in an office and dish out advice; he and his staff donned the uniforms of Syrian officers and worked the field.
Our intelligence sources report that in the last ten days, the Iranian police chief has been spotted in almost every Syrian hotspot, from Daraa in the south, to the Damascus suburbs in the center and Banias on the coast. Western intelligence sources monitoring the unrest in Syria began to notice that wherever he turned up, less protesters were killed, the total falling from 80-100 per day, and the scale of armed clashes was reduced by the effective dispersal of demonstrators.
That the uprising was beginning to fade, partly due to the Iranian officer's efforts, was evident in the small numbers which turned out in the streets of Homs Wednesday, May 11.
The ringleaders had expected this city of one million and its outlying towns of 2 million to field mass demonstrations and were prepared for head-on, deadly clashes with Syrian armored forces. In the event, only a few thousand demonstrators showed up. The number killed by military fire was less than ten, the lowest since the army was deployed against the rebellion.
Saudi Prince Bandar keeps Yemeni president in power to block Iran
Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Iran's Maj. Gen. Suleimani are running into one another at opposite ends of more Middle East battlefields than Syria. Yemen is currently the most active. But there, the roles are reversed.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Gulf sources disclose that Bandar has kept Yemeni President Abdullah Ali Saleh in power despite a reconciliation accord negotiated with the opposition by the Gulf Cooperation-GCC states that would have obliged him to step down within 30 days.
After two weeks of nagging, the prince managed to persuade Saudi King Abdullah to have the reconciliation accord set aside by a simple device. Ali Saleh was instructed to refuse to come to Riyadh and sign it and to stay put in the presidential palace in Sanaa.
The Saudi prince wanted him there because he considers Ali Saleh the only ruler capable of stopping Al Qaeda's advance in Yemen and of containing the spread of Iranian influence in his country.
Tuesday, May 10, the GCC heads of state gathered in Riyadh with King Abdullah in the chair to review the Yemen situation amid a fresh upsurge of violence. The meeting issued the following statement: The GCC ambassadors in Sanaa are on the ground engaging all the Yemeni factions in talks, including the ruling party and the opposition groups.
This was diplomatic-speak for the scrapping of the unsigned accord and a decision to negotiate a new agreement and new terms for Ali Saleh's resignation.
Iran is pouring out funds and weapons to keep the opposition fighting for the president's removal and so defeat Bandar's gambit for keeping him in power.
In the violent clashes which flared afresh this week between government and opposition forces in Sanaa tens of people are losing their lives every day and hundreds are injured.
Suleimani, whose fine hand is to be found in almost every Arab revolt, finds he is running more and more into the Saudi prince standing against him.