TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Intelligence Chief Bandar Bin Sultan has returned to Russia to once again try to tilt Moscow’s stance on Syria after his first attempt a few months ago ended in a total fiasco, media sources said, adding that he has already met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has declared in a statement on Wednesday that Bandar and Lavrov both sides discussed in detail the main issues regarding the developments in the Near East and Middle East, including the crisis in Syria and Geneva 2 conference as well as Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian state news agency reported.
The statement said the focus during the talks between Lavrov and the Saudi official was laid on the necessity to solve the acute regional issues on the basis of respecting the rules of the UN Charter and the international law principles, while the Saudi intelligence chief – whose country very openly funds, runs and supports terrorist groups in Syria and who himself is in charge of his country’s decisions on Syria – is known for his extremist measures in support of the war of militancy against the Damascus government.
Discussions, the statement added, also dealt with the prospects of the Russian-Saudi relations, with reference made to the importance of continuing bilateral political dialogue and activating trade and economic relations.
Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that President Vladimir Putin met yesterday Bin Sultan and discussed with him the situation in Syria in the framework of the preparations for Geneva 2 conference.
Saudi Arabia is considered the number one supporter of terrorist groups in Syria and the top supplier of weapons and funds to the terrorists.
The last time Prince Bandar Bin Sultan was in Moscow for the Syrian issue, he tried to bribe Putin into changing his policy on Syria by, among others, promising him a safe and secure winter Olympics in Sochi in return for a stop in Moscow’s support for the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Bandar visited Moscow in August to negotiate in his capacity as the “Prince of the Mujahideen” in Syria, including those who hail from Chechnya, Dagestan, and the Caucasus in Russia’s backyard.
From Dagestan alone, more than a hundred fighters are enlisted in the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, which is active in Northern Syria.
During the visit, the Saudi intelligence chief told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Saudi-controlled militants in the Caucasus would not disrupt the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi only if Russia backed away from its support for Syria, and Putin rejected the proposal furiously.
“We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned”, Putin is said to have answered according to Syria news.
Bandar also offered Russia economic incentives, including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for the Syrian government, Middle-East sources and western diplomats said.
There are good reasons for Bandar and the Saudi ruling family to be angry at Russia (and lately at the US, too). Saudi Arabia´s plans against Shiites and the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East have been undermined by Russian policies in Syria, Iran and elsewhere. Bandar planned to overthrow Bashar al Assad in Syria through a US attack and the action of terrorist groups there, to isolate and destroy Hezbollah and to push Washington into a confrontation with Tehran.
However, Bandar clearly misunderstood Russia, Iran and Hezbollah and their determination to support their Syrian ally and to defeat his plans. Russia deployed a powerful fleet in Eastern Mediterranean and made it clear that it was willing to support and protect Syria.
Therefore, Bandar could try to take revenge on Russia through his terrorist tools. This is of course insane, but his threats to Russia (and now to the US) are themselves evidence of his insanity and stupidity and led the world public opinion to understand that the Saudi regime itself is a real problem for the region and the world.
Extremist groups and the Olympic Games
Terrorist groups tied to Saudi Arabia and other countries have been operating in the North Caucasus for years. According to Syria’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, who recently visited the Islamic University of Moscow, “there are around 2,000 extremists from Russia fighting in Syria.” He said that “among the fighters, there are people from Chechnya and Dagestan in the Caucasus as well as those of Tatarstan in central Russia”.
According to the Lebanese daily As Safir, which quoted the director of the Russian site Qafqaz Ozil, Gregory Chavidov, “the Russian extremists have gained experience in the war in Syria. They have learned to fight in cities. Up to now, the terrorists in the Caucasus did not enjoy such experience. And when they return home and organize their ranks, they will certainly represent a major threat.” He added that “Sochi is seriously exposed to attacks by extremist groups who took part in street battles in Syria, in spite of all measures taken to ensure security for the Olympic Winter Games.”
The ringleader of the terrorists in the Russian Caucasus Doku Umarov threatened last July to disrupt the Olympic Winter Games, promising that he would try by all means to prevent the games from taking place. Umarov has reached a deal with Emir Salautdin, who controls North Caucasus militants in Syria, for those militants to return to Russia to fight under his command. Umarov has proclaimed the North Caucasus an independent state, calling it Imarat Kaukaz (The Caucasus Emirate). The Russian expert said that “if the Russian militants return to the country, responding to Umarov’s call, it would represent a serious concern.”
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern over the return of Russian militants who are currently fighting against Syrian forces. He wrote in a recent article published in the New York Times, “We cannot but be concerned about the presence of hundreds of extremists from Western countries and even Russia, who are fighting Syria. Who can assure us that these people, with their experience in Syria, will not come back to our country? This is a real threat to us all.”
The Russian President called on the country’s Muslim leaders to work together with state authorities in order to counter these radical movements. “Radical movements, which have never been popular among Russian Muslims seek to weaken our state and to create foreign-managed conflicts in the Russian territory,” he said.
Putin has set up a clear policy, which aims at combating extremist groups wherever it is possible and necessary, with no concerns for other factors. The current civil war in Syria is considered by the Russian president a continuation of his fight in Chechnya and this is a message easily understandable by the majority of Russians.
Putin has ordered Russian intelligence agencies to step up their efforts in Northern Caucasus and has issued a decree reducing the freedom of movement and assembly near the Sochi resort. “Despite the obvious positive changes, the situation in the North Caucasus is improving too slowly,” Putin said. “Terrorist threats, uncertainties regarding safety have not been permanently eradicated.”
The Russian concern has been fuelled by the terrorist attack on October 22 in Volvograd. Six people were killed and 37 were injured – some of them critically – after a female suicide bomber, Naida Asivalova, from Dagestan, set off a bomb on a bus in Volgograd, Central Russia.
Recently, a Russian citizen, Sergei Gorbunov, was also captured by “extremist militants” in Syria, who threatened to “slaughter” him if Russia and Syria did not exchange him through the Red Cross for a native of Saudi Arabia named Khaled Suleiman. He was reportedly taken hostage by militants from the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters). This group is led by Abu Omar al Chechen and is manned by volunteers from the Caucasus.
On the other hand, Bandar’s claims that Saudi Arabia controls Chechen terrorist groups has also raised new questions about the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing. The Tsarnaev brothers, who allegedly carried out the attacks, had close family links to Chechen extremist groups in Russia. The elder brother, Tamerlan, traveled to the region to contact such groups.
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