Over the years MER has often focused on the exploits of Saudi Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan. From his cozy relations with the Israeli-Jewish lobby (now turned on him), to his takeover of most of the Arab and Muslim organizations through financial enticements and clever co-optation, 'Bandar Bush' has done more to harm the Palestinians and Arab interests than any other Arab official. Use the MER SEARCH capability to read much from the past exclusively available from Mid-East Realities.
A Golden Couple Chasing Away a Black Cloud
By MAUREEN DOWD
New York Times - 28 Nov: WASHINGTON — Prince Bandar is known as the Arab Gatsby.
Rising from a murky past in a racist society, born in a Bedouin tent as the son of an African palace servant impregnated by a Saudi prince, to a glamorous present as dean of the Washington diplomatic corps.
Tossing glittery parties with celebrity entertainment at his sumptuous mansions in Aspen and England's Wychwood, a royal hunting ground once used by Norman and Plantagenet kings.
Smoking cigars and bragging about his fighter-jock exploits— flying upside down 50 feet above the ground — at parties at his McLean, Va., estate overlooking the Potomac, "where there was more chilled vodka in little shot glasses than I've ever seen," as one guest recalled.
Flying off in his private Airbus to hunt birds in Spain with his friends George Bush Sr. and Norman Schwarzkopf, entertaining the current President Bush's sister, Doro, at his Virginia farm, and palling around on the D.C. social circuit with Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, George Tenet, Brent Scowcroft and Bob Woodward.
Spinning a smoky web of intrigue with his cigars and C.I.A. operations, helping finance the contras.
So if Bandar bin Sultan is Gatsby, his wife, Princess Haifa, must be like the careless Daisy, her voice full of money that could have ended up supporting two of the Saudi hijackers. And those 15 Saudi hijackers would be "the foul dust that floated in the wake" of the Arab Gatsby's dreams.
His new dream is that Saudi Arabia will help America get rid of Saddam, and then the anger over Saudi involvement in 9/11 will fade and the cozy, oily alliance between the countries can get back on track.
All the millions the Saudis have spent since 9/11 on a charm offensive could not save them from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas, who drew fresh tracks between charitable checks Princess Haifa wrote and two hijackers.
The princess says she feels as if a bomb had been dropped on her head — an unfortunate metaphor given the fact that Saudi terrorists funded by Saudi charities turned planes carrying innocent Americans into bombs.
She is rarely seen around Washington, abiding by Saudi customs sheltering women. But she entertains at her many homes, and powerful friends — including Barbara Bush and Alma Powell — called on Monday night to buck her up.
The case inflamed public suspicion that the Saudi government is more involved than it admits, and that the Bushies are less zealous about getting to the bottom of the Saudi role than they should be.
Some senators charge that the F.B.I. has pulled its punches, and that the royal family, as Richard Shelby puts it, has "got a lot of answering to do."
Gen. Tommy Franks has already spent a fortune setting up a new base in Qatar because the Saudis are still dithering about letting us use our old bases in their country.
Noncommittal on the future, and uncooperative on the past, the Saudis have been stingy about helping the F.B.I. with 9/11. The administration has helped the Saudis be evasive, with Dick Cheney stonewalling Congressional investigators.
It would probably be far easier for America to reduce its dependence on Saudi oil than for the House of Saud and the House of Bush to untangle their decades-long symbiosis.
Prince Bandar, the representative of an oil kingdom, is so close to the Bushes, an oil dynasty, that they nicknamed him Bandar Bush. He contributed over $1 million to the Bush presidential library. The former president is affiliated with the Carlyle Group, which does extensive business with the Saudis.
It was terribly inconvenient for all the friends of the bin Sultans when the trail of checks led to the Saudi Embassy. Many influential people in Washington were averting their eyes from the embarrassment. The prince and his panicky wife were defending themselves to The Times's Pat Tyler while Bandar anxiously flipped among seven television screens in their pool house to catch the latest news.
The Bush crowd was praying it wasn't a last-days-of-disco scene similar to the one when the shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists, and the jet-setting Iranian diplomats had to pour all the liquor down the drain at their embassy. Will the Arab Gatsby end like the original — "borne back ceaselessly into the past"?