Germany’s BND Criticizes Saudi Arabia’s Role in Arab World

Germany’s BND Criticizes Saudi Arabia’s Role in Arab World

Germany’s foreign intelligence service warned about Saudi Arabia adopting a destabilizing role in the region - by Andrea Thomas


BERLIN—Germany’s foreign intelligence service warned about Saudi Arabia adopting a destabilizing role, in an unusual blunt criticism of the Gulf kingdom’s growing influence in the Arab world.

“The previous cautious diplomatic stance of older leading members of the royal family is being replaced by an impulsive policy of intervention,” the German Intelligence Service, known by its German acronym BND, said in a memo distributed to journalists.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defense minister and second in line to the throne, are trying to make their names as “leaders of the Arab world,” the report said.

The criticism comes as Saudi Arabia—a close ally for the West in fighting terrorism and Islamic State militants—has adopted a more aggressive foreign policy since King Salman ascended to the throne in January. The policy shift was highlighted in Riyadh’s military operations against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Germany and the U.S. have called on Saudi Arabia to find a solution to the Yemen conflict since Riyadh launched in March its air campaign against the Houthi rebels.

The German spy agency said that Saudi Arabia’s engagement in Yemen appears to be aimed at strengthening it regional influence.

The BND also pointed to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in supporting opposition groups in Syria as well as its role in other conflicts such as in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.

In its memo, the BND said Prince Mohammed risked “overly straining relations with befriended and, most of all, allied states” and other royal family members in his attempt to establish himself in the succession to the throne.

The Saudi foreign ministry couldn’t be reached for comment.

Germany has economic ties to Saudi Arabia, a top customer of German weapons over the past years and one of the world’s biggest exporters of oil.

But Berlin has also publicly addressed human rights issues with Riyadh. During a trip to the Gulf country in March, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel publicly criticized Saudi Arabia over sentencing blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes.

—Ahmed Al Omran in Riyadh contributed to this article.

Write to Andrea Thomas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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