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Old 08-02-2012, 03:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: Saudi Chief of Intelligence Assassinated by Syrians

Is it better to live or to die? That was the question many believe Shakespeare was truly asking when he wrote the famous line “To be or not to be, that is the question” in his play Hamlet. It’s an interesting question to ask oneself from time to time, especially in today’s day and age. It is a question many journalists are contemplating when it comes to reporting this week’s rumored assassination of Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

On July 18th, a deadly bombing in Damascus unfolded leaving at least four high-profile Syrian security officials killed. Two of those killed in the attack were Syrian Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha and his deputy Assef Shawkat. Shawkat was also President Assad's brother-in-law. Iranian and Syrian officials believe Prince Bandar was one of the key planners behind the attack.

A day later, on July 19th, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, son of the late crown prince Sultan, was named Director of Saudi Intelligence through a direct appointment by King Abdullah. If he was truly behind the July 18th attack in Damascus, was his appointment some type of reward by King Abdullah? Many believe so.

Immediately after the July 18th explosion that killed many high ranking Syrian officials, Syrian Television quoted the Syrian government as saying they will hunt down whoever was responsible for the attack wherever they may be. Did this mean they would go so far as hunt down Saudi Arabia's chief of intelligence and assassinate him?

On July 23rd, four days after the appointment of Bandar, Saudi General Intelligence headquarters in Riyadh was hit by a bomb blast killing his deputy, Mashaal al-Qarni. Many believe the attack was orchestrated by Iran in retaliation for the July 18th attack in Damascus.

On July 31st, just eight days after Prince Bandar’s appointment as Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, the Paris-based Voltaire Network, an international non-profit organization, reported that Prince Bandar was assassinated.

Only a small handful of media outlets have published reports about this alarming event. Some of those international media organizations include the Tehran Times and DEBKA. Both media outlets are often observed as propaganda mechanisms for Iran and Israel. Could they be reporting this as news just to lure Saudi Arabia into a devastating conflict? Possibly.

So, why have so few reported on this significant event? A timeline of events exists, a pattern of activities can be observed, and some associations have been identified. But even with these three fundamentals that can be easily incorporated into intelligence analysis, there are still too many missing pieces of this puzzle to build the full picture.

Many inferences can be made. One key inference would be the most obvious. World War I was initiated because of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and in today’s day and age no one wants to let the cat out of the bag claiming a successful assassination of one of Saudi Arabia’s top government officials was killed. It could start World War III. That is, if we aren’t already fighting the third world war.

Reporting timely and accurate news coverage has become more and more difficult these days. Technology is a means to saturate masses of information to the public and oftentimes that information is just purely false. And in many regards, we have become a world filled with rumors.

While the assassination of Prince Bandar bin Sultan may or may not be true, a question must be asked by journalists. Do they want “to be or not to be?” Do they want to risk their credibility by putting out information that may turn out not to be true or do they want to take that risk and hope their coverage turns out accurate to beat the competition.

Either way, this news of rumor is a significant event. If it turns out to be true, which many sources throughout the Middle East have claimed it not to be, make no mistake that Saudi Arabia will retaliate and likely spark a war between the Shia and Sunni divide. If that happens, Shakespeare’s soliloquy needs to be thoroughly debated among nation state leaders as we will all, sooner or later, need to take a side in the fight. And while many believe one of those two nations is an ally to the West, truth be told, neither side is very trustworthy.
Kerry Patton served in the U.S. Defense and Justice departments, and as a contractor within the Homeland Security and State departments. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, focusing on intelligence and interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. His upcoming book, "Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies," is due out in June 2010. Currently, Mr. Patton teaches for Henley Putnam University. He is also a public speaker and available for speaking engagements.
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