The heir to Saudi Arabia’s throne has been awarded a medal by the new director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, who honoured his contributions to “counter-terrorism” work.
Mike Pompeo, making his first overseas tour since being confirmed as CIA chief in late January, made the presentation to Crown Prince Muhammed bin Nayef at a weekend ceremony, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Bin Nayef, 57, has been interior minister since 2012 and has years of experience in intelligence work.
He oversaw a crackdown on al-Qaeda, a group that killed security officers and foreigners in the kingdom between 2003 and 2007.
In 2009 Bin Nayef survived an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda.
Pompeo awarded him the George Tenet Medal in recognition of his “excellent intelligence performance, in the domain of counter-terrorism and his unbound contribution to realise world security and peace”.
George Tenet was the CIA’s longest-serving director, from 1996 to 2004, and helped to spearhead the country’s military invasions into both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pompeo and Nayef also held talks on security issues, SPA said.
The prince told SPA that “no attempt will succeed in driving a wedge between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US”.
It was the latest Saudi reaffirmation of ties between the Islamic monarchy and Washington since President Donald Trump took office on January 20.
The US and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship founded on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.
But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the eight-year administration of former president Barack Obama.
Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and was tilting towards its Shia-dominated rival Iran.
Pompeo is a strident critic of an international deal reached in 2015 to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for guarantees that it would not pursue a nuclear weapons capability.
In interviews and written pieces, Pompeo has pointed to Iran as the primary source of conflict in the Middle East since Tehran’s 1979 revolution – views that coincide with those of Riyadh.
Pompeo was in Turkey late last week for talks with officials.