The New York Times has a piece today looking at the influence of former Saudi Ambassador to the US, Pr. Bandar bin Sultan. It’s useful to read this article along side that of Martin Indyk, appearing in today’s ‘Outlook’ section of The Washington Post.
Both pieces note, correctly, that Bandar represents and has represented Saudi Arabia and its own interests. He has served as a middle man in trying to find ways to conceptually coordinate US and Saudi ideas on what policies to make and how to implement them. Where there have been strong differences between the two countries, that hasn’t always worked out well. This piece notes, also correctly, that Bandar has a way of leaving ‘room for interpretation’, letting the listener hear what he wants to hear, while never actually contradicting stated policies.
The article notes, too, that Saudi advice to the US prior to the war in Iraq, was ignored. Things like cautions about ‘de-Baathification’ and firing the Iraqi army, have shown themselves to be correct, alas in hindsight.
This article is definitely worth reading.
A Saudi Prince Tied to Bush Is Sounding Off-Key
HELENE COOPER and JIM RUTENBERG
WASHINGTON, April 28 â€” No foreign diplomat has been closer or had more access to President Bush, his family and his administration than the magnetic and fabulously wealthy Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia.
Prince Bandar has mentored Mr. Bush and his father through three wars and the broader campaign against terrorism, reliably delivering â€” sometimes in the Oval Office â€” his nationâ€™s support for crucial Middle East initiatives dependent on the regional legitimacy the Saudis could bring, as well as timely warnings of Saudi regional priorities that might put it into apparent conflict with the United States. Even after his 22-year term as Saudi ambassador ended in 2005, he still seemed the insiderâ€™s insider. But now, current and former Bush administration officials are wondering if the longtime reliance on him has begun to outlive its usefulness.
Bush administration officials have been scratching their heads over steps taken by Prince Bandarâ€™s uncle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that have surprised them by going against the American playbook, after receiving assurances to the contrary from Prince Bandar during secret trips he made to Washington.