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Update on Prince Turki al-Faisal
Posted by: 277fia
Date: July 22, 2005 05:20PM
This week, Prince Turki al-Faisal was named Saudi ambassador to the United States. The prince was director of Saudi intelligence for 24 years. Much speculation occurred when he suddenly resigned that post on August 31, 2001.
During the 1980s, he led the Saudi effort in the war in Afghanistan. He was the person who initially encouraged Osama bin Laden to go to Afghanistan in 1979. Prince Faisal says he with bin Laden three times during the 1980s. Reportedly, Bill Clinton in 1996 asked Prince Faisal to extradite bin Laden from Sudan. Instead, bin Laden left Sudan for Afghanistan.
In 1998, he met with Mullah Omar and requested that bin Laden turned over to the Saudis and Mullah Omar agreed to the plan . The US bombing shortly thereafter ended that agreement. Prince Faisal met once more with Mullah Omar in a meeting which ended with Mullah Omar denouncing the Saudis.
While much attention has been focused on Prince Faisal's role in the events leading up to 9/11, the former ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, has been almost entirely overlooked in 9/11 investigations despite his very close relationship to the Bush family. The one exception is that, in 2002, his wife, Princess Haifa, was found to have indirectly funded two of the 9/11 hijackers through a charity.
The July 21,2005 NY Times story about the change in ambassadors said this about Prince Bandar reason for leaving: "Saudi officials declined to specify the personal reasons for Prince Bandar's decision to retire, but people close to the embassy noted that he had spent little time in Washington in recent years and had suffered from exhaustion and health problems."
The neocon's favorite magazine, the Weekly Standard, has this to say about Prince Bandar: "Seeing the last of the unctuous Bandar will be viscerally pleasing to many Americans and to Saudi liberal dissidents. The now-former ambassador was disliked by embassy staff for his personal corruption, favoritism, and arbitrary cruelties. And questions about the role of his wife, Princess Haifa, in sending money to participants in the September 11 conspiracy have never been answered."
Bio of Prince Turki al-Faisal:
January 2002 PBS Online News Hour Interview With Prince al-Faisal:
7/21/2005 NY Times story abut the change in ambassadors:
7/20/05 Weekly Standard on change of ambassadors:
12/9/2002 Weekly Standard story about Princess Haifa's charities:
Re: Update on Prince Turki al-Faisal
Posted by: 277fia
Date: July 29, 2005 01:04AM
Here's a 10/22/2001 Wall Street Journal story, "Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe?" which speculates about Prince Turki al-Faisal's sudden resignation as Saudi intelligence director on 8/31/2001. Note that the writer, Simon Henderson, runs a consulting firm, Saudistrategies.com.
No link is available so I am posting the entire article.
"What kind of ally is Saudi Arabia? To Americans who watch with frustration as the Saudis prevaricate on the use of military bases there, the answer is clear: They aren't acting like allies at all. This frustration is turning to outrage as details emerge of Saudi unwillingness even to run "traces" on the men involved in the hijackings of Sept. 11. Experts in the region, however, suggest that America's problems have their roots in an intense struggle for succession in the House of Saud.
If this is so, what exactly is going on in the desert kingdom? Saudi watchers in the West are like Kremlinologists of old. They read bland stories from the official Saudi Press Agency to see who is mentioned and what is the order of names. And they monitor ages and health of the leading princes, some of whom are as overdue for retirement, if their system allowed it, as the sclerotic Soviet leadership was.
A few months ago, when 78-year-old Crown Prince Abdullah -- the de facto ruler because 80-year-old King Fahd is ailing -- was visiting Europe, the watchers raised an eyebrow when they saw his half-brother, Prince Nawwaf, a political nonentity, in the entourage. At the end of August, the jaws of those same watchers dropped when a brief official announcement said that Nawwaf had been appointed head of the General Intelligence Directorate, the equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The announcement said the previous head of Intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a son of the late King Faisal and therefore a nephew of Nawwaf, had resigned "at his own request." So much for a career of more than 30 years in intelligence, starting as deputy director at the age of 23, with promotion to the top job nine years later, in 1977. For a quarter-century, Turki had been the main contact point for liaison with the CIA, the British Secret Intelligence Service, and others. Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, he had also held the "Afghanistan file," acting as the kingdom's main point of contact with the CIA-backed mujahedeen (i.e. with Osama bin Laden and others), then later with the various warring factions, and finally with the Taliban.
Washington has been at a loss to explain what caused Turki to resign. One theory was that his wife was ill, and that he wanted more time for himself and his family. Another suggested that he had never completely recovered from an accident while camping in the desert in the mid-1980s, when he inhaled carbon monoxide from a defective heater. But these are just theories. He was sacked, and we don't know why, an indicator of how little is known about the closed Saudi society.
But Saudi watchers tend to be a diligent bunch. The involvement of Saudi-born terrorist bin Laden in the events of Sept. 11 made the resignation of Turki an issue that had to be resolved. The version now accepted as most likely is a baroque tale, combining dynastic tensions within the 30,000-strong royal family, Saudi relations with the Taliban, Saudi relations with the U.S., and the implication that the Saudis knew or suspected that bin Laden might carry out his hijacking outrages somewhere in the world in September.
The dramatis personae also include Prince Nayef, the interior minister. Aged 68, he is, like Fahd, Abdullah and Nawwaf, a son of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, who fathered a total of 44 sons before his death in 1953. (Since then, succession has passed from brother to brother.) Also central is Prince Sultan, the 77-year-old defense minister, and the likely king, however briefly, after Abdullah; he is a full brother of Fahd and Nayef. Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister and a brother of Turki (and son of the late King Faisal), is another key player, as is Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador in Washington. (The latter is Prince Sultan's son, and is said to have ambitions to be foreign minister.)
The succession struggle, particularly fraught since late 1995 -- when King Fahd had the first in a series of strokes -- has been played out against a background of internal political opposition, caused by poor government revenues from oil and resentment about princely corruption. There has also been long-standing tension between Turki and his uncle, Nayef, the interior minister, who was in charge of the domestic intelligence service. Theoretically, Turki answered to Nayef, but he had preserved a degree of independence.
The two men had a major falling out after the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, attributed to minority Saudi Shiites with the backing of Iran. Turki had wanted full co-operation for the investigation with the FBI and the CIA; Nayef had refused, considering such co-operation an infringement of Saudi sovereignty. Turki's handling of the Afghanistan file was also judged faulty. Although the Taliban, like the Saudis, were Wahhabis, a puritanical interpretation of Sunni Islam, their support for bin Laden had clearly begun to harm the kingdom's best interests. The regime had made a strategic mistake in backing the Taliban -- their fellow Wahhabis -- but now Turki was going to be the fall guy.
Nayef took the issue of his differences with Turki to Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom's de facto ruler, who could not ignore the complaint. Along with Fahd, Abdullah and Sultan, Nayef is one of the four most powerful men in Saudi Arabia. Abdullah proposed a compromise: Turki, he agreed, would go, but would be replaced by Abdullah's confidante and constant companion, Prince Nawwaf.
The timing of Turki's removal -- Aug. 31 -- and his Taliban connection raise the question: Did the Saudi regime know that bin Laden was planning his attack against the U.S.? The current view among Saudi-watchers is probably not, but that the House of Saud might have heard rumors that something was planned, although they did not know what or when. (An interesting and possibly significant detail: Prince Sultan, the defense minister, had been due to visit Japan in early September, but cancelled his trip for no apparent reason less than two days before his planned departure.)
For Western diplomats and intelligence officers trying to achieve international co-operation in the hunt for bin Laden, Turki's forced departure seems like a cruel farce. The close personal relations they had developed over the years with a key player in Saudi Arabia are now worthless. U.S. officials find themselves dealing with Nayef, who doesn't want to co-operate, and Nawwaf, the new intelligence chief, who is quite out of his depth. And it doesn't help that Crown Prince Abdullah is in a huff over President Bush's determination to wage war in Afghanistan.
Why are the Saudis so sensitive on co-operating with the U.S., either in investigating the activities of bin Laden or assisting the strikes on Afghanistan? It seems that, despite the years of U.S. help for the development of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves and the building of its well-equipped armed forces, many Saudis, including sections of the royal family, resent the debt they owe Washington. It is a resentment that could not be worked through while Saddam Hussein continued to threaten the kingdom from the north, and now the feeling is deepened by embarrassment regarding the Saudi-born bin Laden.
For Washington, this represents an enormous conundrum with no quick fix. Most Saudi watchers don't think the kingdom is about to crumble -- the House of Saud will be ruthless in preserving itself. Relations are going to be tough, and unless the U.S. can show resolution and success, they can only get tougher."
Re: Update on Prince Turki al-Faisal
Posted by: 277fia
Date: August 1, 2005 12:28AM
More on Prince Bandar:
12/31/2004 Wall Street Journal story by Glenn Simpson, "Riggs Bank Had Longstanding Link to the CIA; Ties May Pose Challenges For Prosecutors Investigating Money Laundering at Bank" (not available online) brings up Prince Badar and the CIA in connection with the investigation of money laundering at Riggs Bank. According to the WSJ, the Riggs Bank, headquartered in Washington DC, used to call itself the "bank of presidents."
Here some excerpts:
"Riggs Bank, which is under investigation by the Justice Department for money laundering, has had a longstanding relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, according to people familiar with Riggs operations and U.S. government officials.
That relationship, which included top current and former Riggs executives receiving U.S. government security clearances, could complicate any prosecution of the bank's officials, according to private lawyers and former prosecutors.
Riggs, a storied Washington institution that used to refer to itself as the "bank of presidents," has come under intense scrutiny following revelations that it overlooked tens of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions by Saudi diplomats and dictators from Africa and South America...
Prosecutors are exploring whether the money-laundering violations are of a criminal nature, in addition to investigating possible embezzlement and kickbacks by a former employee.
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Washington, declined to comment.
"It is Riggs policy neither to confirm nor comment on client relationships," a Riggs spokesman said.
The relationship with the CIA could prove problematic because it could cast a different light on the bank's dealings with two U.S. foreign-policy allies, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to Washington.
Given the intelligence connections to Riggs, prosecutors could be faced with proving that the bank's failure to disclose financial activity by the foreign officials wasn't implicitly authorized by parts of the U.S. government...
Prince Bandar's connections to the CIA have long been a significant, albeit little-discussed, aspect of the Riggs affair. During the initial phase of the controversy over Saudi accounts at Riggs in early 2003, Prince Bandar detailed his work for the CIA in a meeting with Treasury Secretary John Snow, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials who interpreted the disclosure as an explanation for the prince's large unexplained cash transactions at Riggs.
The meeting took place at the Treasury Department's headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is across the street from Riggs headquarters. A spokesman for Prince Bandar declined to comment on the specifics of the discussions with Mr. Snow, as did the Treasury Department. During the 1980s, Prince Bandar helped fund the anticommunist Nicaraguan Contra rebels at the request of the White House and CIA, and later helped support Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union. More recently, he helped broker a diplomatic rapprochement between the U.S. and Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi..."
Re: Update on Prince Turki al-Faisal
Posted by: 277fia
Date: August 29, 2005 04:55AM
A short interview of Prince Turki al-Faisal from the NY Times Sunday Magazine:
August 28, 2005
New Saud in the House
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Q: As the outgoing Saudi Arabian ambassador in Britain, were you surprised to learn that none of the suspects in the recent London bombings were Saudis or even Arabs?
Al hamdulillah means ''Thanks to God.''
But now you are about to leave London and become the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., where many people still wonder why so many of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi citizens.
Bin Laden was very clever about that. He wanted to make a rift in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. And he succeeded, because now in every headline you see in the U.S., it says 15 out of the 19 terrorists were Saudis, and those 15 people have come to mean the Saudi people, whether we like it or not.
As the longtime director of Saudi intelligence, you were personally named in the $1 trillion lawsuit filed by the families of 9/11 victims, who claimed that you contributed money and support to Al Qaeda if only as a payoff to keep them out of your country. Although the charges were later thrown out, what was that experience like for you?
I felt offended, frankly. I had spent my life in the intelligence business for nearly 30 years, so it was kind of a slap in the face to be accused not only of financing terrorism but of fostering it -- and even some people have accused me of having established Al Qaeda myself.
You've met Osama bin Laden?
I met him five times. At that time, which was in the mid-80's and late 80's, he was a very shy person, very self-effacing, extremely sparse in his words and generally a do-gooder, someone who brought financial and medical and other support to the Afghan mujahedeen.
So how did he acquire such bruising rage?
You put the right word, rage, this rage that is very cool-headed and calculating. How can I explain it? I am not a psychiatrist. No one can sit and have him on the couch for interviews.
How did you feel about Michael Moore's ''Fahrenheit 9/11,'' in which he accuses Prince Bandar, your predecessor in Washington, of colluding with the Bush administration to sneak members of the Saudi royal family out of this country right after 9/11?
What made me unhappy is that Mr. Moore made a point of criticizing Saudi Arabia without even having set foot in Saudi Arabia.
Do you see the war in Iraq as the main cause of anti-Americanism around the world today?
Iraq is an adjunct, but not the core issue. If Iraq is solved, Palestine will remain a sore point for Arabs everywhere.
Are you saying that the U.S. has been too soft on Israel?
Absolutely. I cannot see any logic in it, seeing how badly the U.S. is looked upon, not just in the Arab world but in the wider Muslim world.
Are you religious? I see you dress in Western clothing.
I pray five times a day. In Muslim practice, there are parts of the body you have to cover completely in public, and it doesn't matter how you cover it. This is a suit I bought in Paris.
I don't mean to make you feel unimportant, but aren't you one of some 6,000 Saudi princes?
I haven't counted, so I don't know.
The gap between the rich and the poor in your country is colossal.
I think that is another misconception. Let's talk about America. You have more than 30 million people under the poverty line in America. That is not a few people!
As a son of the late King Faisal, are you accustomed to getting everything you want?
Being the son of a king is no different than being the son of a journalist or anyone else. I went to Princeton and spent only one term there. I failed all my engineering courses, so I was kicked out of Princeton. Georgetown was good enough to take me.
Before I go, I have to ask you, why is green the national color of Saudi Arabia?
Because we are a desert country whose ultimate ambition is to turn green.
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