CIA Director William Burns visited Saudi Arabia earlier this week to express frustration over Riyadh’s surprise normalization deal with Tehran that was brokered by Beijing, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
According to the Journal, Burns told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the US “has felt blindsided” by Riyadh’s rapprochement with Iran as well as Syria, two nations under crippling US economic sanctions.
Following the deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia is poised to normalize with Syria. Riyadh is expected to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit it’s hosting in May. The Biden administration is against regional countries upgrading ties with Syria as it prefers to keep the country isolated as US policy is to prevent reconstruction.
A US official told Reuters that Burns also discussed intelligence cooperation with Riyadh. “The director reinforced our commitment to intelligence cooperation especially in areas of counterterrorism,” the official said.
Also on Thursday, Saudi Arabia and Iran’s foreign ministers met in Beijing, marking the highest-level meeting between the two countries since when they severed diplomatic ties in 2016. At the meeting, they agreed to reopen their embassies and to work toward other forms of cooperation.
At a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said Beijing was ready to continue mediating between the two sides. “We are ready to keep playing a mediating role, support both sides in building trust, dispelling misgivings and realizing good neighborliness, and contribute China’s wisdom and strength to promoting security, stability, and development in the Middle East,” she said.