The Intercept: CIA director meets MBS, discuss China & oil production
The American news source reveals what went down in April's meeting between Burns and MBS.
Last month, CIA Director William Burns secretly met with Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The meeting would be the first known meeting between America's top spy and the Crown Prince. According to three sources familiar with the meeting, it was also an attempt by high-ranking US officials to get Saudi Arabia to supply oil as US gas prices rise.
Discussed in the meeting, according to two sources who've spoken to the Intercept, was the purchase of Chinese weapons from Riyadh.
Biden, until now, has refused to meet with MBS over a number of reasons: mainly, over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Riyadh's refusal to increase oil production upon Biden's request. The request, particularly, was to exchange increased oil production for US military support in Yemen, to which he was denied.
A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment on Burns' travels. However, a number of people agreed to be interviewed by the Intercept regarding what happened at the meeting. A US intelligence official, two sources close to the US intelligence community, a source close to members of Saudi royalty, and a think tank official all spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the two sources close to US intelligence, Burns requested that Saudi Arabia not warm up to China - in other words, not to purchase arms from Beijing, in addition to requesting increased oil production.
Riyadh has recently been contemplating selling oil in the Chinese currency, the Yuan. This caused concern in Washinton, which is going as far as suggesting an Asian NATO to counter China's growing economic influence internationally.
In a Senate testimony, Avril Haines, the director of National Intelligence, warned that Russia and China may be making efforts “to try to make inroads with partners of ours across the world,” pointing at Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Saudi government, apparently, is planning to make ballistic missile purchases later this month from Beijing under a secret program, code-named "Crocodile," according to a source close to US intel.
In addition, in the meeting, Burns demanded that MBS' cousin, MBN - or, Mohammed bin Nayef, who has been incarcerated since his ousting by bin Salman in 2017, be released. MBN is a close asset to the CIA, thus why Biden is requesting his release.
The meeting, furthermore, was meant to mend the tense relationship between MBS and other senior officials in the Biden administration.
Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor, last year, upon bringing up Khashoggi's murder, was shouted at by MBS, and was told to forget about his oil production request, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Burns also met with a number of leaders from the region, including Qatar, the UAE and Oman - the think tank official revealed that the top spy traveled throughout all of the Middle East.
Meeting with the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, Burns also requested that the UAE stop warming up to China, pointing at the construction of a Chinese military base in the UAE.
Burns' role has been sidelining diplomats at the US Department of State, by engaging on a lot of diplomacy "heavy-lifting."
Last year when Afghanistan came under the ruling of the Taliban, Burns was in West Asia, meeting with Palestinian and Israeli officials, after which he met, in secret, with Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader.
A US intelligence official told The Intercept that what is happening is the “further castration of the Department of State.”