Royalty and Diplomacy; Saudi Prince Gets Both Jobs Done

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 5, 2006 | Go to article overview

Royalty and Diplomacy; Saudi Prince Gets Both Jobs Done


Byline: Martin Sieff, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

From the start of the Reagan administration through the first Gulf War, the most important, powerful and successful diplomat in the world was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. He remains a profoundly significant global player today.

William Simpson has produced an exceptionally valuable and sympathetic, but nuanced and fair portrait of this remarkable man. Mr. Simpson, who is British, is a lifelong friend of Prince Bandar's since their days together in officer training at the British Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, but his work does not read as a hagiography. Instead, the book benefits from Mr. Simpson's deep personal knowledge of this complex, talented and multilayered man.

Prince Bandar's achievements, international credibility and continuing global clout are extraordinary, and transcend the normal definitions of political and international relations analysis. What other current or recent diplomat could expect to find two world leaders as disparate as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain and former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to provide glowing and appreciative forwards to a book on his life?

Prince Bandar, as Mr. Simpson documents in immense detail, was the key linchpin of the Saudi-U.S. alliance of the 1980s that transformed the world and played a leading role in the toppling of international communism and the fall of the Soviet Union.

The alliance was also the essential underpinning and prerequisite for the tremendous, world-transforming American economic recovery and unprecedented boom of the 1980s and 1990s. It ensured a cheap, reliable supply of oil to the industrialized world. Mr. Simpson makes a an overwhelming case for his contention that the Reagan administration was able to win the Cold War thanks to the flow of Saudi petrodollars financing crucial intelligence operations and political initiatives around the world.

Prince Bandar was also a consummate political operator. Mr. Simpson describes him as Machiavellian. In a sense this may be unfair to a man who was and remains a committed patriot and servant of his country, who was also committed to an enduring alliance with the United States and who opposed both Communist and extreme anti-Western Islamist forces.

But it is a fitting term to describe the skills and political shrewdness with which Prince Bandar operated. He always took the long-term view but was also adept at handling short-term tactical crises. …

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