WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan held a secret meeting in July in which, sources say, the Saudi prince sought to make a deal with Putin of more oil investments and oil price stability in exchange for Russian withdrawal of support for the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Sources described the meeting as stormy, at best.
Putin and Bandar agreed, at least, that the region stretching from North Africa to Chechnya and Iran through Syria, as well as all of the Middle East, was the subject of a major U.S.-Russian standoff.
Sources say Bandar, who is paying for the Sunni uprising stretching from Syria and into Iraq, suggested that his offer of oil price stability and investments in exchange for the Russians to stand aside and let the Sunnis take over Syria by ousting Assad was in coordination with the U.S. and its European partners.
According to sources, the four-hour meeting also discussed their roles in fighting international terrorism. Putin is very concerned about the subject because of the Sunni Islamist militants in the North Caucasus who are threatening now to launch attacks throughout Russia.
Putin made it clear that Saudi financing was behind the terror efforts and suggested that any level of cooperation between the two countries can only occur if Riyadh stops such funding.
“There are a lot of common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world,” Bandar reportedly told Putin.
“Russia and the United States, the European Union and the Saudis agree on the promotion and consolidation of international peace and security,” Bandar said.
This was an indirect reference to the Russian backing of Iran, which is helping to prop up the Assad regime. Bandar reportedly wanted the Russians to stop backing Iran’s nuclear efforts, which the Saudis find to be a major security threat to the preservation of the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and, indeed, all of the Gulf Arab countries.
Bandar reportedly went so far as to guarantee the protection of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The offer, in effect, provided proof of Saudi backing of North Caucasus militant attacks in Russia.
Chechen and other North Caucasus groups under the leadership of Dokku Umarov have threatened not only to launch renewed attacks against civilian targets inside Russia but to cause major disruptions of the 2014 games.
Moscow sees the Sunni Islamist militants out of the North Caucasus as a major threat and recently has had the federal security services step up attacks against them.
Moscow also is looking to Shiite Iran to help blunt the growing influence and activities of the Sunni militants from across Central Asia as they unite with the North Caucasus militants to launch attacks in Russia.
Putin also is concerned the Chechens, who are receiving battlefield experience in Syria and are financed and equipped by the Saudis, could be even more emboldened upon their return to the North Caucasus region and launch even more serious attacks.
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