It feels like something sinister has just occurred, but it may be a long time until we figure out just what that was (SEE: Saudi Appointment Suggests Bigger Regional Ambitions). When dealing with the Saudis, nothing is as it seems. Trying to understand the Saudi royal family is something like trying to decipher a hidden code. What does the advancing of Bandar Bush to the top job in Saudi intelligence services really imply?
Whenever there are major changes in the Saudi royal family, our first impressions often prove to be wrong, since we can only see surface appearances. Much like looking at an iceberg, most of the facts about the Wahhabi kingdom are hidden beneath the surface. Bandar is the biggest “berg” of the bunch. The move of Bandar to the top of the Saudi’s “CIA” is far more significant than just the replacement of the previous spy boss (who had proven himself to be inadequate for the Saudi’s needs), simply because of the baggage that Bandar carries with him. He has served as Saudi Arabia’s primary connection to every American administration since Reagan, because of his strong connections with the leaders of the Republican Party (this is how he earned the title “Bandar Bush”).
Bandar Bush has been the irreplaceable key to nearly all of the Grand Ole Party’s secret foreign policy adventures. Even Democrats like Clinton and Obama, who choose to act like Republicans, have been able to motivate the Republican associates of Bandar, in order to obtain his help in pulling together another of his “Islamist” armies for “humanitarian interventions” in Muslim countries.
Brother Bandar was extremely active during the Bush years, advising both Cheney and Bush, while organizing their secret deals to put his militant network to work. During the Bush era, elements of his militant network came to be called “al-Qaeda” (the base), as their terrorist exploits were amplified in the Western press, to create the impression of a massive army of international “Islamists” waging war against the civilized world. The legendary “exploits” of al-Qaeda are actually the acts of many separate, unconnected terror outfits, writ larger than life on the Western TV screens, as if all the terrorists worked for one Saudi boss.
The Bush administration successfully insulated the Saudis from any blame for supporting and using this terrorist network, enabling Bandar’s boys to provide the unified enemy nexus that Bush and Cheney so desperately needed to justify their wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and half a dozen other hot spots. This formula for creating new wars was intended to empower the American war for Empire, as the flagship of predatory capitalism ripped through a series of Middle Eastern and North African countries (as revealed early on by General Wesley K. Clark). War on Iran was scheduled to follow a quick victory in Iraq, which anticlimactically, ended rather quickly, contrary to expectations, proving to be another embarrassment to the administration.
The neocon scheme began to unravel very quickly in Bush’s second term, as he became a victim of his previous easy successes in starting new wars. The American war machine, too, easily devoured the token resistance of the Taliban and Saddam’s forces after that. Easy victories upset the formula, as old battles could not “logically” (if perpetual war was your goal) be finished until sufficient groundwork had been done, laying the charges and lighting the fuses for new American wars. Iran would have to wait for Bandar’s boys, or other assets (Mossad) to cause a strong enough Iranian reaction to their probing attacks to provide an excuse for a massive America counter-reaction. Meanwhile, similar excuses needed to be engineered to justify the extended stays in Afghanistan and Iraq (leading directly to the creation of the Pakistani Taliban and “al-Qaeda in Iraq”). While they were at it, the Saudis produced terrorist prodigy Ibn al-Khattab, who hailed from the same Saudi/Jordanian border town as the legendary boss of “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Bandar’s Sunni “Islamist” network managed to produce two semi-effective anti-Iranian Sunni outfits, Jundullah and Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK). Both proved to be unsuited to the task of rallying terrorist armies to their sides in Shia Iran. Bandar also came up short in his search for satisfactory terrorist clients to oppose Iranian inroads in any of the targeted Muslim countries with mixed populations of both Shia and Sunni, like Lebanon, Syria, or the Palestinian territories.
Bandar seemed to fall out of favor with Bush after the failure of Israel’s war against Hezbollah stalled in Lebanon in 2006. Anticipated local insurgencies in Lebanon and Syria failed to materialize, leaving Israel standing alone against Hezbollah with their Zionist pants around their ankles. When the IDF did not live-up to their exalted military prowess, failing to make quick work of the Lebanese Shia resistance (like the US-supported Northern Alliance forces had easily walked over the Taliban), it seemed to take the wind out of Bush’s sails. The previous urgency is instigating war with Iran seemed to quickly fade, as war fever started to cool and Bush appeared to lose his taste for starting new aggressive wars.
Around that same time, a feud between Bandar and Prince Turki broke out into the open, ending with Turki’s resignation as ambassador to the US. It has been reported that the feud was over Saudi policy regarding America’s Iranian policy (SEE: Prince Bandar’s Ambitions: Turki-Bandar Feud Over US Politics Cause of Resignation). Turki favored a more even-handed diplomatic approach, embodied in the Arab Peace Initiative for Palestinian statehood at the UN and supporting the moderates in Iraq, while Bandar wanted to butt heads with the Iranians, in order to solve the Sunni/Shia problem once and for all (SEE: Prince Bandar Allegedly Advocating Military Response Against Iran). In short, Bandar represented the militant Cheney wing of the Republicans, while Prince Turki was the Saudi advocate for the moderate Baker/Scowcroft wing. Bush had grown tired of being let down by the “Cheneys” and “Bandars” lined-up at the American seat of power.
Much like his pal Cheney, Bandar seemed to skulk back into the shadows after that, as efforts to drive the terror war covertly seemed to crash head-on into operations intended to prolong the individual wars, producing obvious contradictions, which began to arouse the suspicions of the American people. Bush turned the wars over to the Pentagon advisers, turning his deaf to the spies. Bandar disappeared completely from the public eye in 2008, after the failed Georgian attempt to expel Russia and Republican McCain’s defeat, giving rise to multiple rumors, the most extreme of which was the theory that Bandar had attempted a coup against King Abdullah by Bandar and about 200 loyalists (SEE: In kingdom, Saudi prince’s coup ‘fails’). Whatever the truth was, Bandar remained hidden until 2010, when he emerged from obscurity amid great fanfare.
Perhaps Bandar had emerged then to reclaim lost ground. In his absence, King Abdullah had given cautious support to the diplomatic measures that Prince Turki had been pushing. Abdullah had even given Turki’s ideas on rapprochement with the dark sheep of the Arab fold, Syrian Bashar Hafez al-Assad, meeting him in Damascus on Oct 7, 2009. Bandar’s father, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, had undergone surgery in New York in February 2009 for an undisclosed illness, forcing the Saudi second-in-command to spend the year afterwards recuperating in the United States and at a palace in Morocco.
The heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Sultan died on October 21, 2011, whereupon Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the next Crown Prince, or heir apparent. Less than one month later, on Nov 11, 2011, Prince Turki’s diplomatic plans for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations were effectively scuttled, as the security council put off the vote on admitting Palestine as a state. On June 16, 2012, Crown Prince Naif (Nayef) also died. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the next Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
The man whom Bandar had sidelined as Prince Naif’s chief of Saudi Intelligence was Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz. The Institute For Gulf Affairs recently revealed correspondence between Naif and his intelligence chief Muqrin, concerning the Saudi handling of the Shia protests:
“The letters discuss how a situation involving Shia instigation in the Eastern Province should be handled. In the exchange Muqrin argued for a much stronger and harsher approach, but was vetoed by Naif.”
On Sunday, July 8, Muqrin’s “stronger and harsher approach” was given a go, as Shia cleric Ayatollah Al-Nemer was shot during his brutal arrest, setting-off massive Shia rioting in the Eastern Province, home of most Saudi oil fields. Muqrin was supposed to be the kingdom’s top expert on the eastern provinces, since his son-in-law, Mohammed bin Fahd, was the governor of that province, but his insight into the Shia mind was as incomplete as any other Sunni. Creating martyrs for the Shiite cause is not the path to peace in Saudi Arabia, or in any other Muslim nation. In addition to this royal disappointment, Muqrin had also recently dealt a severe psychological blow to the kingdom’s most important ally, Pakistan, by his cooperation with India and the United States in the capture of wanted Lashkar e-Taiba militant, 26/11 co-conspirator Sayed Zabiuddin, alias Abu Jindal. These two major embarrassments to the king are the primary reason for the outing of the long-time Saudi security chief.
Does the positioning of Bandar in Muqrin’s job herald a change for the worse in Saudi Arabia’s treatment of its Shia citizens, or does it signify that the Keeper of the Two Holy Mosques intends to take the effort to force submission of the eastern Shiites to Tehran?
Peter Chamberlin may be contacted at email@example.com.