CIA Director Honors Top Saudi Royal for Counterterror Work

(AFP) RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The heir to Saudi Arabia’s throne has been awarded a medal by the new director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, who honored his counterterrorism work.

Mike Pompeo, on his first overseas tour since being confirmed as the spy agency’s chief in late January, made the presentation to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef at a weekend ceremony, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

Prince Mohammed, 57, has been interior minister since 2012, and has years of experience in intelligence work.

Widely respected in the West for his efforts to combat violent extremism, he oversaw a crackdown on Al-Qaeda that killed security officers and foreigners in the kingdom between 2003 and 2007.

In 2009, Prince Mohammed survived an assassination attempt by Al-Qaeda, suffering only light injuries.

Pompeo awarded him the George Tenet Medal, in recognition of his “excellent intelligence performance, in the domain of counterterrorism and his unbound contribution to realize world security and peace.”

George Tenet was the CIA’s longest-serving director, from 1996 to 2004.

Pompeo and Prince Mohammed also held talks on security issues, SPA said.

The prince told SPA that “no attempt will succeed in driving a wedge between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US.”

It was the latest Saudi reaffirmation of ties between the absolute Islamic monarchy and Washington since President Donald Trump took office on January 20.

Riyadh’s Foreign Affairs Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters on Sunday that there was nothing surprising or unusual about Pompeo’s visit, as the two sides address issues of mutual concern.

“The US and Saudi Arabia… have extensive ties. We have extensive challenges that we’re working on in counterterrorism, in security, maritime security, and the whole gamut of issues,” he said.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship founded on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.

But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the eight-year administration of former president Barack Obama.

Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and was tilting towards its Shiite-dominated rival Iran.

Pompeo is a strident critic of an international deal reached in 2015 to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for guarantees that it will not pursue a nuclear weapons capability.

In interviews and written pieces, Pompeo has pointed to Iran as the primary source of conflict in the Middle East since Tehran’s 1979 revolution — views that coincide with those of Riyadh.

Pompeo had been in Turkey late last week for talks with officials there.


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