Multiple international reports on Tuesday revealed that Saudi Arabia's powerful intelligence chief traveled to Damascus Monday to meet with his Syrian counterpart in what's being seen as a major step toward detente. The two broke off relations since near the start of the war in 2011, especially as it became clear the Saudis were a key part of the Western allied push for regime change, through covert support to anti-Assad insurgents and jihadists which included regular weapons shipments.
Gen Khalid Humaidan, the head of Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Directorate, led a delegation where they were received by Syrian government officials in Damascus. According to The Guardian, Riyadh is currently preparing for a "normalization of relations" - expected to come immediately after the Muslim holiday of Ramadan next week.
One unnamed Saudi official was cited in The Guardian as saying "It’s been planned for a while, but nothing has moved." He explained that "Events have shifted regionally and that provided the opening."
"The Saudi delegation was led by Gen Khalid Humaidan, the head of the country’s General Intelligence Directorate," the report details. "He was received by Syria’s Gen Ali Mamlouk, the architect of the push to crush the early years of the anti-Assad revolution and the key interlocutor with Russian forces, which took a significant stake in the conflict from September 2015." The Saudis had shuttered their embassy in Damascus by 2012 and simultaneously expelled Syria's ambassador from Riyadh.
The news could serve to ease the pressure on Damascus, which is desperately attempting to hold things together economically amid severe and far-reaching US-led sanctions, runaway inflation, an American occupation in the northeast which has severed valuable domestic energy resources, and an increasing lack of basic imports and staples for the population.
It also comes amid significant rumors of indirect attempts of the Iranians and Saudis to ease tensions and de-escalate proxy wars in places like Yemen and Iraq.
Saudi officials meet with Assad in Syria, set to reopen embassy, report says— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) May 4, 2021
No confirmation of this save for one paper: Rai al-Youm.
US is talking to Iran, so KSA might as well talk to Assad & figure out how to decrease Iranian influence.
Interestingly The Guardian and other Western mainstream outlets are now openly acknowledging the proxy war and regime change war nature of the conflict - despite for years the same outlets choosing to only describe it as a "popular uprising" that was an outgrowth of the Arab Spring.
The publication now belatedly writes that "Two years earlier, Riyadh had been central to a plan to oust Assad by arming anti-Assad forces near Damascus and encouraging defections to nearby Jordan, from where the Saudi leadership had expected Barack Obama to launch a push by US proxies to take the Syrian capital."
Assad emerged victorious, which was pretty much guaranteed after Russia's 2015 intervention in support of government forces, despite much of the country being in ruins and the economy now suffocating under a sanctions chokehold.