Of all the players on the world stage, Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia (aka Bandar Bush, the nickname given from his close relationship to the Bush family) has got to be one of the most fascinating and repellent.
After serving as Saudi Ambassador to the US until 2005 and acting as Secretary General of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council after that, Bandar was appointed to head the Saudi Intelligence Agency on July 19, 2012. Three days later, Bandar disappeared into the ether after a bomb exploded at the Saudi Intelligence HQ in Riyadh, spurring rumors that Bandar had fallen victim to assassination.. Bandar had been working to topple the government of Assad in Syria.
Fast forward to August, 2013. Bandar resurfaces for a meeting in Russia with Putin on August 2 to discuss Syria on the down low. Bandar offers to buy Russian weapons and call off the Chechen rebels under Bandar’s control to keep the Sochi Olympics safe from terrorism. In return, Bandar asks that Russia accept regime change in Syria to a moderate Sunni, pro Saudi government. Putin refuses. Bandar assures Putin that the Syrian war will intensify.
The Syrian civil war did, in fact, intensify when a chemical attack attributed to the Assad regime killed between 300 and 1300 people, largely civilians, on August 21. A US attack on Syria looked inevitable.
However, on August 29, Mint Press News published a piece (original article not available, but here is PW’s excellent diary about it) accusing Bandar of supplying chemical weapons to Syrian rebels that were then used against civilians in an incident the US and its allies cited as a war crime perpetrated by the Assad regime. The story was allegedly passed to Mint Press by a Russian. Around the same time, a subtle shift began around Syria as more opposition to Military strikes appeared in the press. Amid growing pressure, John Kerry committed a “gaffe” by stating war could be avoided if Syria rid itself of weapons within seven days, an offer that was quickly accepted by Russia and other nations wishing to avoid military action.
Bandar was not pleased. Stresses in the US/Saudi relationship appeared. Not only had the US backed out of military action in Syria, it had begun pushing Geneva II peace talks for a resolution in Syria and the US had made diplomatic overtures toward Saudi Arabia’s arch nemesis, Iran. Bandar began to distance Saudi Arabia from the US.
Fast forward again to the present. The so-called P5+1 nuclear talks on Iran are stalemated. Emptywheel’s excellent analysis of Bandar’s role behind the scenes of the talks suggests that Bandar, seeking new allies beyond the US, offered France a lucrative weapons purchase in exchange for blocking an agreement on P5+1 talks that could result in lifting of some sanctions against Iran.
Of course, reading the mainstream press, you would never know the full story behind Iran’s hesitation to sign on to the nuclear deal. Bandar Bush–old neocon friend–has sown war and traded illicit weapons in the Middle East and blamed Assad. He has attempted to bribe Russia and France, succeeding with the France. He controls the Chechen terror cells who attack schools and kill children. He secretly meets with Mossad and partners with Israel against Iran. Bandar, best friend to the Bush family. Anyone wondering what he bartered with the United States during his epic Ambassadorship?
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