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The Prince: The Secret Story of the World's Most Intriguing Royal, Prince Bandar Bin Sultanby William Simpson
Synopses & Reviews
< P> A riveting portrait of one of the most enigmatic yet influential powerbrokers in America& ndash; Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al& ndash; Saud, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States from 1983& ndash; 2005. < /P> < P> At a time when understanding our friends is as important as understanding our enemies, Prince Bandar bin Sultan remains one America's most enigmatic powerbrokers. As the illegitimate son of a Saudi prince and a servant girl, Prince Bandar overcame his unrecognized beginnings to rise as one of Saudi Arabia's brightest diplomatic stars, ultimately becoming the Ambassador to the United States& ndash; and one of the most influential men in Washington.< /P> < P> As Ambassador, Prince Bandar worked with CIA Director Bill Casey to fund covert CIA operations with Saudi petrodollars. He played a key role in the Iran& ndash; Contra affair; consulted with President Gorbachev to secure Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; negotiated an end to the Iran& ndash; Iraq war; and, with Nelson Mandela, resolved the Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Affair. He served under four different American presidencies and was called Washington's indispensible operator by the New Yorker.< /P> < P> Yet Prince Bandar was more than this. His entre into Washington society and the Oval Office was unmatched. George H.W. Bush took the Prince and his family on fishing vacations; First Lady Reagan used him to convey messages to her husband's Cabinet; Colin Powell would drop by his house to play racquetball.< /P>
"When historians search for a paradigmatic figure who embodied America's old, pre- 9/11 relationship with the Arab world, an obvious candidate will be Saudi Arabia's swaggering ambassador to Washington from 1983 to 2005, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. He was the Gatsby of foreign affairs: entertaining Washington's elite at his mansion overlooking the Potomac; exchanging secret favors with a string of presidents... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush; lobbying for Saudi weapons purchases so effectively that he trounced even AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby group; operating as a deniable arm of the CIA in covert operations around the world. I wish I could say that Bandar has found a biographer worthy of his mercurial career, but that is not the case with William Simpson's 'unofficial' but authorized 'The Prince.' This is a well-meaning but annoying book — not so much a biography as a stitching together of Simpson's interviews with Bandar and his friends and acolytes. Simpson attended a British air force training college with Bandar decades ago, and his book suffers from the awe-struck befuddlement Bandar must have engendered among his fellow students. We learn how the avid but undisciplined young prince wrecked sports cars and nearly destroyed several of his fellow cadets when he slid out of formation in the clouds one day over England (and was afterward 'blithely unaware' of the near disaster). But readers hoping for a judicious and probing account of Bandar's career — and of what he did and didn't do during his ambassadorial years — will be disappointed. When it comes to the trickiest issues — such as Bandar's alleged role in financing the 1985 attempted assassination of Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's senior Shiite cleric — Simpson prints Bandar's version without much independent investigation of his own. His subject deserves a more serious and scholarly work. Like many Washington journalists, I found Bandar a useful contact, if a dizzying one. I remember a 1984 party at his grand house in McLean, Va., where the prince watched happily as a servant in a tuxedo fed tennis balls into a ball machine while guests in stocking feet raced back and forth, whacking forehands. And I recall Bandar meeting with reporters and editors at The Washington Post during the tense prelude to the 1991 Gulf War, smoking the biggest cigar most of us had ever seen — dishing military secrets while we searched for a suitably large ashtray. Bandar's brash style was so mesmerizing that it could lead observers to forget the fundamentals. He was so American, with his big cigars and his hard-partying ways, that he made Americans think that Saudi Arabia must be as modern and cosmopolitan as Bandar himself. In his embrace, presidents allowed themselves to forget that he represented a secretive, repressive Muslim kingdom that survived because it had made a pact with puritanical Wahhabi clerics who despised America. That was the problem with Bandar's glittering role here: As with the fictional Gatsby, the lavish parties and the intrigue disguised a darker reality. That hidden truth finally became apparent when al-Qaeda terrorists flew airplanes into buildings that symbolized America, and it turned out that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. What made Bandar so useful in the old days was that he really could walk between the two worlds. He appealed to Americans not just with his showy ways but also because, in Saudi terms, he was a parvenu. He was the illegitimate son of the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan, and a concubine of African descent, and the rise of this handsome, dark-skinned man was as close as you could find in Saudi Arabia to the improbable rags-to-riches plotlines of 'Vanity Fair' or 'David Copperfield.' And he was bold: Disdaining the traditional reticence of Saudi diplomats, he made himself into a kind of Arab James Bond — meeting with the president in the Oval Office, then dashing off on a secret mission to Syria or Lebanon to negotiate a cease-fire or deliver a presidential message ... and then, when he returned, telling journalists the juicy details that added to the luster of his reputation. Bandar accomplished what very few diplomats have in Washington over the past few decades: He became at once a master of the inside game and the outside game. He was a confidante of presidents, CIA directors and national security advisers, and he played them adeptly to ensure that Saudi interests were protected. But he could also go over the heads of these policymakers, to Congress and the American public, thanks to his wide contacts in the media. He understood how Israeli ambassadors had played the game, then bested them at it — especially in his successful fights to win congressional approval of controversial sales of F15 fighters and AWACS radar planes to the kingdom in the 1980s. In the years when Bandar's influence was at its peak, during Reagan's second term, the ambassador became a genuinely dangerous figure in his role as secret adviser to the first lady, Nancy Reagan. Bandar schemed to block the appointment of a prospective national security adviser he didn't like, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, and to engineer the appointment of his preferred choice, Robert C. McFarlane — and then, when McFarlane crossed him, to send him into social and political exile. Bandar's behavior in these years was something out of the court of the Borgias or the Romanovs. The question raised by Bandar's extraordinary career is how one should judge the pre-9/11 world of Arab-American relations that he helped define. To be sure, it was infected with a deadly disease — tolerance for the Muslim extremism that was interwoven with the House of Saud's rule — but that doesn't mean that the old order's underlying premises were wrong. Bandar and his various co-conspirators in the White House sought to preserve the status quo in the Middle East, preferring stability to democracy. They did that through elaborate machinations and deceptions, but at the core of this Machiavellian world were the intertwined national interests of Saudi Arabia and the United States: America got oil, Saudi Arabia got protection. The current President Bush is often accused of being too close to the Saudi prince — to the point that the filmmaker Michael Moore claimed the prince was known within the White House as 'Bandar Bush.' But the truth is something quite different: Bush overturned Bandar's attachment to the status quo and replaced it with grandiose but ill-conceived ideas about the transformation of the Middle East — ones that even the mercurial Bandar would have regarded as reckless. Now, as America struggles to put the pieces of the Middle East back together, it would be useful to have an Arab partner with Bandar's ambition and raw cunning. David Ignatius is a Washington Post columnist and co-moderator of the PostGlobal conversation on washingtonpost.com. His new spy novel, 'Body of Lies,' will be published in April." Reviewed by David Ignatius, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
A riveting portrait of one of the most enigmatic yet influential powerbrokers in America–Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al–Saud, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States from 1983–2005.
At a time when understanding our friends is as important as understanding our enemies, Prince Bandar bin Sultan remains one America's most enigmatic powerbrokers. As the illegitimate son of a Saudi prince and a servant girl, Prince Bandar overcame his unrecognized beginnings to rise as one of Saudi Arabia's brightest diplomatic stars, ultimately becoming the Ambassador to the United States–and one of the most influential men in Washington.
As Ambassador, Prince Bandar worked with CIA Director Bill Casey to fund covert CIA operations with Saudi petrodollars. He played a key role in the Iran–Contra affair; consulted with President Gorbachev to secure Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; negotiated an end to the Iran–Iraq war; and, with Nelson Mandela, resolved the Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Affair. He served under four different American presidencies and was called "Washington's indispensible operator" by the New Yorker.
Yet Prince Bandar was more than this. His entre into Washington society and the Oval Office was unmatched. George H.W. Bush took the Prince and his family on fishing vacations; First Lady Reagan used him to convey messages to her husband's Cabinet; Colin Powell would drop by his house to play racquetball.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan remains one of the world's most enigmatic power brokers. The illegitimate son of a Saudi prince and a servant girl, Prince Bandar became one of Saudi Arabia's brightest diplomatic stars-and one of the most influential men in Washington. Bandar played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair; secured Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; negotiated an end to the Iran-Iraq war; and, with Nelson Mandela, resolved the Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie affair. He was called Washington's indispensible operator by the New Yorker. Yet Prince Bandar was more than this. George H.W. Bush took the Prince and his family on fishing vacations; Nancy Reagan used him to convey messages to her husband's Cabinet; Colin Powell would drop by his house to play racquetball. During the Gulf War, Bandar even became a de facto member of the National Security Council. Now William Simpson pulls back the curtain for the first time on the fascinating and startling life of the man who emerged as the most powerful and influential ambassador to the United States since World War II. Simpson sheds new light on his meteoric rise to power, his contributions to world peace, and recent controversies such as the Prince's role after 9/11. Simpson investigates the entanglement of the House of Saud with the bin Laden family as well as the Prince's controversial relationships with the movers and shakers of American policy. With a preface by Nelson Mandela and a Foreword by Margaret Thatcher, this biography of Prince Bandar is sure to become the definitive work on this engimatic man.
About the Author
William Simpson was a classmate of Prince Bandar at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, where they became friends through a mutual interest in fencing during the two and a half years of their officer training. Simpson founded and was CEO of an Internet company, and also worked with a Mayfair-based hedge fund as President of North American Operations. After his retirement from the world of financial services, Simpson undertook this biography with the cooperation of Prince Bandar. Simpson lives in the United Kingdom.
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