In what many observant Muslims consider to be an act of sacrilege, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia governing the country in the name of his ailing father, King Salman, has permitted Israeli intelligence agents to enter Mecca and Medina. MBS has struck a close working relationship with the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, and the Israeli Defense Force’s military intelligence arm, AMAN, to counter several perceived threats, including Iran.
King Salman is officially the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina.” They represent the first- and second-most holiest cities in Islam, followed by Jerusalem, or Al-Quds, to which the Trump administration recently extended de facto recognition as the capital of Israel. It is official Saudi policy that non-Muslims may not enter or travel through Mecca. However, in the interest of weeding out individuals and groups representing non-Sunni Muslim sects active in Mecca and Medina, MBS has made an exception for current and former members of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence services. The Israelis are assisting the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), or Al Mukhabarat Al A’ama, in identifying perceived threats to the Saudi regime.
Khalid bin Ali Al Humaidan, the head of the GIP, holds regular meetings with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen. Both of their respective predecessors, Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud and Tamir Pardo, also met frequently. The close Saudi-Israeli contacts were initiated eight years ago by former GIP chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his Mossad counterpart, Meir Dagan.
The Israelis are assisting their Saudi counterparts in conducting counter-intelligence sweeps through Mecca and Medina, which include intercepting outbound communications to Iran, rebel-held areas of Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. The targets of the Saudi-Israeli intelligence operation include the Pasdaran (Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps); Lebanese Hezbollah; the Muslim Brotherhood; Yemeni Houthis; a Sinai-based jihadist group, Ansar al-Beit Maqdas (Supporters of the Holy House); and Iraqi Shi’a Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs). The Pasdaran and PMUs are fully integrated with the Interior Ministries of Iran and Iraq, respectively.
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, all ruled by Wahhabist Sunni royal families, have also initiated intelligence sharing with Mossad.
Many Muslims around the world are aghast that Israeli intelligence agents, some with the blood of Palestinians on their hands, would be permitted to enter either Mecca or Medina. One Twitter user wrote, “Umar Ibn Al-Khattab expelled Jews from Madina 1,400 years ago and now Saudi government are allowing them back again.” Some Israelis have taken and distributed “selfies,” showing their presence in Mecca and Medina.
Turkey is among the countries most upset at the Saudi action. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently re-elected with new sweeping powers, sees himself as a modern-day Ottoman emperor. It was the last Ottoman emperor, Mehmed VI, who held the title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. After the fall of the Ottomans, the title was assumed by the Saudi king. Erdogan considers the Saudi invitation to Israelis to enter the two holy cities as an act of blasphemy. Erdogan has shown his displeasure with the Saudi regime by throwing his full support behind Qatar in its dispute with the Saudis and their Gulf allies.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).