Saudi Arabia has sidelined its veteran spy chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as spearhead of the kingdom's efforts to manage the situation in Syria, replacing him with Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, diplomats told AFP.
“A Saudi analyst who serves as adviser to top royals said the changes signaled the kingdom would also now emphasize diplomatic means, including outreach to and pressure on Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, the main backers of Mr. Assad's regime,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
“Prince Mohammed's appointment reflects shifting U.S. interests in the conflict, with both the Americans and Saudis increasing their focus on countering al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria,” it added.
According to U.S. officials, Prince Mohammed enjoys good relations with Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan.
Two top White House officials - national security adviser Susan Rice and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco - met last week with Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister.
They discussed security cooperation and efforts to address violent extremism and terrorism across the Middle East, a White House statement said.
"They also exchanged views on regional issues and committed to continuing to strengthen our cooperation on a range of common interests," it added.
Senior U.S. officials recently described Prince Bandar as "erratic" and "hot-headed." Kerry, in private meetings with U.S. officials, singled him out as "the problem" and complained about his conduct in orchestrating Saudi policy in Syria, according to meeting participants.
A son of the late defense minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, Prince Bandar was appointed Saudi Arabia's new spy chief in July 2012.