CIA director Bill Burns secretly met with Saudi crown prince, report says, as US attempts to salvage tattered relations

CIA director Bill Burns secretly met with Saudi crown prince, report says, as US attempts to salvage tattered relations
CIA director Bill Burns (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R).Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS; Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
  • CIA director Bill Burns met MBS in secret in Saudi Arabia last month, The WSJ reported.
  • The US-Saudi relationship recently hit a new low, and Washington is scrambling to rectify matters.

CIA director Bill Burns secretly met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month, The Wall Street Journal reported, in the latest attempt by senior US officials to try and patch up tattered relations with the Gulf state.

Burns and Crown Prince Mohammed, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, met in the city of Jeddah in mid-April, The Journal said, without giving further details.

A US official told The Journal it was "a good conversation" with a "better tone than prior US government engagements."

The CIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the meeting from Insider early Wednesday morning.

The meeting is the latest attempt by US officials to repair relations with Saudi Arabia, which have soured in recent months.


On the 2020 election campaign trail, President Joe Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" and has since refused to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed, effectively downgraded his rank, and also ended US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

In turn, MBS has reportedly ignored Biden's phone calls and requests to up oil production, and said he doesn't care what Biden thinks of him. In September, Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly shouted at White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan after the latter brought up the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The US is also trying to make up for what the Saudis and United Arab Emirates consider a weak response to attacks on the Arabian Peninsula by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels last year.

In a clear show of the US intentions to improve relations, the US sent additional Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia in March, The Journal previously reported.

Speaking last week, the former Saudi spy chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said the Saudis felt let down by the US response, saying Biden's decision to delist the Houthis from the US list of terrorist groups has "emboldened" the rebels.


After months without a US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Biden finally nominated a new one — career diplomat Michael Ratney — last week.

However, David Schenker, a former senior State Department official, told Insider that Crown Prince Mohammed may consider the appointment a slight, given Ratney is not a well-connected military heavyweight, as his predecessors have been.