Saudi and Syrian regime intelligence chiefs meet in Cairo

Saudi and Syrian regime intelligence chiefs meet in Cairo
The chiefs of Saudi Arabia's and the Syrian regime's intelligence departments have met in Cairo, in a new sign of the restoration of relations between the Assad regime and Gulf countries.
2 min read
14 November, 2021
The Syrian tourism minister visited Riyadh in May 2021 amid increasing normalisation of ties between the Assad regime and Gulf states [AFP/Getty]

The heads of the Syrian regime's and Saudi Arabia’s respective general intelligence agencies met in Cairo on the sidelines of the Arab Intelligence Forum, which opened on November 9, Egyptian media revealed on Saturday.

The meeting took place between the head of the Assad regime's General Intelligence Directorate, Husam Muhammad Louka, and the director of Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Presidency Khalid al-Humaidan. 

The Arab Intelligence Forum gathered the heads of several Arab intelligence services and was hosted by Egypt. The intelligence services of all three countries are notorious for their brutality.

This is the first public meeting of its kind between the two intelligence leaders outside of their respective countries, although General Humaidan  travelled to Damascus in May this year to meet with one of his Syrian counterparts, Ali Mamluk, for the first time in a decade.

The move had widely been interpreted as a sign that ties between Damascus and Riyadh may normalize soon.

For the past ten years, Syria had been largely ostracized by most other Arab states and suspended from the Arab League for the brutal repression carried out by the Assad regime against its people. Saudi Arabia broke off all ties to Damascus and closed its embassy in 2012. 

It publically backed the Syrian opposition during the conflict which has left around 500,000 dead, mostly from regime attacks.

But Arab states have recently adopted an increasingly conciliatory attitude towards the regime, fearing Iran's growing foothold in Syria.

The UAE and Jordan  have made several steps to restore diplomatic and economic relations with Assad's regime. On Tuesday, the UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed met with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, clearly signaling a return to normal relations.

Major General Louka and several of Syria's intelligence leaders are on various Western states' sanctions list for their role in the bloody repression of peaceful protests at the beginning of the Syrian revolution.