Friday, March 2, 2007
An Important Story
"The key figure in Middle Eastern diplomacy is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian National Security Adviser. Bandar is the man behind the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas for the establishment of a Palestinian unity government. He was also active in calming the rival parties in Lebanon, and has tried to mediate between Iran and the U.S. administration. Two weeks ago he brought President George W. Bush up to date on his efforts, and last week he participated in a meeting of intelligence chiefs from Arab states with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which took place in Amman the day after the tripartite meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem.
There are many indications that the prince, who served 22 years as Saudi ambassador to Washington, is behind the quiet slide his country is making toward Israel since the end of the second Lebanon war. In September, Bandar met with Olmert in Jordan. The secret meeting was made public in Israel later.
Since their meeting, Olmert has on a number of occasions commended the Saudi peace initiative of 2002, to which Bandar contributed actively.
Israel opposed the Mecca agreement, but Olmert decided to soften the criticism and describe it as an "internal Palestinian agreement." The Prime Minister justified the decision, in part by expressing concern that strong criticism would be construed as an insult to Saudi Arabia and might lead it to alter its position on Iran.
Not first encounter
Bandar's meeting with Olmert was not the first encounter of the Saudi prince with the Israeli establishment. According to statesmen, senior military officers and former intelligence officers, Bandar has had contact with Israel at least since 1990. Bandar was careful to keep his distance from Israeli ambassadors to Washington, and opted for links to Israel that did not operate along the diplomatic channels. The Saudi prince, who is celebrating his 58th birthday, had dedicated his career to furthering stability in the Middle East, which is in the interest of the Saudi kingdom.
His talks with Israelis focused on two subjects: blocking strategic threats from Iraq during the 1990s and from Iran today, and furthering the peace process between Israel, Syria and the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia is particularly sensitive to the Palestinian issue. The weekly cabinet meetings in Saudi Arabia, which take place every Monday and are led by King Abdullah, always begin with a long report on the "Palestine situation," and only then does the meeting move on to other governmental affairs.
In a biography of Bandar, "The Prince", which was published four months ago in the U.S., there is no mention of his meetings with Israelis. But the prince does explain how his interest in Israel began many years ago. It started when he was undergoing pilot training in Britain in 1969 and met another pilot who presented himself as an Israeli......."
Seymour Hersh in his latest article (posted on this blog) identified Bandar as the key figure behind a new and aggressive Saudi role in the region, at the behest of the Bush administration. Saudi money and U.S. intelligence are arming and financing a variety of "Sunni" groups (some linked to Al-Qaida) to fight Hizbullah in Lebanon and conduct terrorist attacks in Iran.
So, the FAMAS "government" is the brainchild of Prince Bandar; what can be bad about that? Celebrate, now!