The mystery of Bandar bin Sultan's absence from the kingdom has finally been resolved with his removal from the post of intelligence chief. He had lost the Syria file to cousin and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef earlier this year. What will Bandar do now? Given his penchant for mischief-making, it would be premature to write him off but his major role in the kingdom's affairs is over. Good riddance!
Tuesday April 15, 2014, 21:04 DST
Bandar bin Sultan, the loudmouthed Saudi honcho and godfather of terrorism has been replaced as the kingdom’s intelligence chief. Saudi media reported today that Bandar had been relieved of his duties at his own request.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoting a royal decree reported Bandar was “exempted... from his position at his own request” and replaced by his deputy, Yousef al-Idrissi.
Earlier this year, Bandar was relieved of handling the Syria file because within the inner Saudi circles, the kingdom’s Syria policy was seen not only as a failure but also posed a threat to the survival of the House of Saud.
Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef took responsibility for Syria. Mohammed is seen as a powerful rising star within the kingdom. Some have even speculated that he might become king one day when the current generation of the sons of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud passes on power to the next generation.
When the Syria file was taken away from him, the Saudi regime left the question of Bandar’s future role in suspense. He had left the kingdom apparently for health reasons. He suffers both from severe back problems as well as frequent bouts of depression.
It was a bit of a surprise to learn that a man who was notorious for his outlandish style and foul language would be suffering from depression. Perhaps his flamboyance was merely a camouflage for his inner insecurity.
It needs recalling that Bandar is the illegitimate son of a concubine. His mother, a black slave girl was only 16 when Bandar was born. His father, the long-time defence minister Sultan bin Abdul Aziz did not allow Bandar to come near him until the boy was well into his early teens. Sultan died in October 2011 at age 86. He was suffering from cancer.
Sultan was persuaded by elder brother King Faisal to accept the boy into the family. In order to rehabilitate him, Faisal offered his own daughter in marriage to Bandar.
Throughout his life, Bandar had wormed his way into power. When Fahd was king, Bandar got close to the easy going, hard-drinking Fahd who made him ambassador to Washington, a post Bandar held for nearly 22 years.
In the US, he got very close to the Bush family earning the title of Bandar Bush. After Fahd’s death, he greased his way up to Abdullah but it seems his luck ran out because his policies have faced repeated failures the most glaring of which is the mess the Saudis have got themselves into Syria. Last July Bandar tried to bribe and threaten Russian President Vladimir Putin over Syria. The Russian quickly showed him the door.
Is this the end of the line for Bandar? Given the fact that he has frequently resurfaced, it would be premature to write him off just yet. What is certain, however, is that Bandar is not likely to play as influential a role as he has hitherto played in the kingdom’s affairs.
What is also interesting to note is that he has been replaced not by another member of the royal family but a commoner, Yousef al-Idrissi. Has the royal family run out of options? The intelligence ministry has historically been headed by a member of the House of Saud.