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Assassination of an important Saudi Prince! By Syria. Or Iran. Or both. Or it might be a fake story.

1 August 2012

Summary:  This news story might be important. Or fake. Either way, it illustrates hidden dynamics in the Middle East and provides a useful lesson — how the Internet can help us sift through the morass of information to find the useful gems of information.

“When I was sixteen, I went to work for a newspaper in Hong Kong. It was a rag, but the editor taught me one important lesson. The key to a great story is not who, or what, or when, but why.”
— Elliot Carver, in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Contents

See the updates to this mystery in the comments!

  1. Setting the stage
  2. The timeline of stories
  3. Tentative conclusions
  4. Updates to the story (also posted in comments)
  5. Tips for reading the news for information
  6. For more information

(1)  Setting the stage

(a)  Useful backgrounder on Prince Bandar: “The Prince and the Revolution“, Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), Foreign Policy, 24 July 2012 — “Saudi Arabia is bringing back its most talented operator to manage the Arab Spring. But can Bandar stem the rot in Riyadh?” Note Bandar’s biographer is William Simpson, not “Sampson”.

(b)  What might have been a key overlooked note: “Saudi Prince Bandar: a flamboyant, hawkish spy chief“, Reuters, 20 July 2012:

“He’s just the right person for the right time in Saudi. They have a more hawkish foreign policy and he’s the leading hawk of the House of Saud,” said David Ottaway, Bandar’s biographer and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. The United States’ closest Arab ally is a firm supporter of the Syrian rebels now battling in Damascus to oust President Bashar al-Assad and is mending fences with Washington after a disagreement over last year’s Arab uprisings.

“Bandar is quite aggressive, not at all like a typical cautious Saudi diplomat. If the aim is to bring Bashar down quick and fast, he will have a free hand to do what he thinks necessary. He likes to receive an order and implement it as he sees fit,” said Jamal Khashoggi, an influential Saudi commentator.

(c)  Blast rocks Saudi Arabia intelligence headquarters“, Kurdpress News, 22 July 2012 — Iranian news media also reported this (Press TV, Fars News).

“Riyadh- Reports from Saudi Arabia said that a Sunday explosion rattled the country’s intelligence headquarters in Riyadh.Reporting from Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni al-Fajr news website said the deputy head of the Saudi’s intelligence service has been killed in the blast.The website side Mashaal al-Qarni, deputy of Bandar bin Sultan, the head of the secret service, has been killed in the blast.

(2)  The timeline of stories

None of these are reliable sources, except the Times of Israel (their story is straight reporting).  But they tell interesting stories, and sometimes they’re right.

(a) Syria reportedly eliminated Bandar bin Sultan in retaliation for Damascus bombing“, Voltaire Network, 29 July 2012 –

.

“The Assassination” by Sams Life, deviantART

Prince Bandar had just been appointed head of Saudi intelligence on July 24: a promotion which was interpreted as a reward for having organized the attack in Damascus on July 18. The Saudi services, with logistical support from the CIA, had managed to blow up the headquarters of the Syrian National Security during a Crisis Cell meeting: Generals Assef Chaoukat, Daoud Rajha and Hassan Tourkmani were killed instantly. General Amin Hicham Ikhtiar died soon after from his wounds. This operation, called “Damascus Volcano” was the signal for the attack on the capital by a swarm of mercenaries, mainly coming from Jordan.

Prince Bandar was himself the target of a bomb attack on July 26, and subsequently succumbed to his injuries. … His death constitutes a serious blow to the whole system of Western covert action in the Muslim world. It took Syria only one week to mount this spectacular reprisal operation.

(b) Riyad neither confirms nor denies Prince Bandar’s death“, Voltaire Network (see Wikipedia for details & history), 30 July 2012

(c)  Israeli websites report the story, providing more information: “Pro-Assad websites claim Syria has killed Saudi intelligence chief, to avenge Damascus bombing“, Times of Israel, 30 July 2012:

In a new indication of the escalating hostility between the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and Saudi Arabia, pro-Assad Syrian websites claimed that Syria has assassinated Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s flamboyant former ambassador to the United States, who was appointed to head his country’s intelligence services earlier this month. The reports, which cited unofficial sources and for which there was no confirmation, claimed that Bandar was killed because it was he, with American support, who organized the July 18 bombing in central Damascus that killed several of Assad’s most senior ministers and aides.

One analyst said privately that, whatever the truth of the claim, it underlined the profound hostility between Assad’s regime and the Saudis.

The Syrian reports, quickly picked up elsewhere Monday, including on Israel’s Mako Hebrew news site, asserted that Bandar orchestrated the Damascus bombing with logistical support from the CIA.

Saleem wants to make the world a better place.

(d) Saudi silence on intelligence chief Bandar’s fate denotes panic“, Debkafile, 31 July 2012 — Opening:

Washington, Jerusalem and a row of Middle East capitals is gaining ground the longer the Saudi government stays silent on the reports of the assassination of the newly-appointed Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, purportedly in a revenge operation by a Syrian intelligence death squad. If true, it would shoot a devastating tentacle out from the Syrian conflict to the broader region. It is widely feared that Saudi rulers are too traumatized to respond by the fear of Iranian penetration of the highest and most closely guarded circles of Saudi government, possibly climaxing in Bandar’s assassination.

The unconfirmed reports of his death attribute its motive to revenge by Iran and Syria for the bomb explosion five days earlier in Damascus which killed four of Bashar Assad’s top managers of his war on the uprising against his regime. The prince, son of the late crown prince Sultan, has not been seen in public since Saudi General Intelligence headquarters in Riyadh was hit by a bomb blast Monday, July 23 killing his deputy, Mashaal al-Qarni.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly 550 of Friday, July 26, was the first world publication to report this attack, in the face of a massive official blackout, from its exclusive intelligence sources. Now as then, debkafile’s sources have obtained no confirmation that Prince Bandar was injured or killed in that attack.

But our sources doubt whether a Syrian intelligence squad would be capable of reaching deep inside Riyadh. They therefore postulate that the deed was committed or orchestrated by a clandestine Iranian agency. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Here is the opening of the gated Debkafile Weekly 550 of July 27 (as shown on their website, not July 26): “Tehran Strikes at Heart of Saudi Intel to Avenge Damascus Assassinations“: “Tehran accuses the new Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan of engineering bombing attack which killed half of Assads top team in Damascus. It sought to drive home the message that enemies of Assad are enemies of Iran and will be punished.” This doesn’t look like mention of the hit on Bandar. Nor did Debkafile have any follow-up stories, as would be normal for such an important event.

The Boys are Back!

(e)  Perhaps an indirect Saudi reply: “Crown Prince Salman commends Kingdom’s judicious leadership“,  Saudi Gazette, 1 August 2012 –Prince Bandar was at a party Monday night. The article has a photo of some Princely guests, but it doesn’t include Bandar.

(3)  Tentative conclusions

“You change the world with rivers of blood.”
Saleem Igor Ulma, terrorist leader in NCIS season 7

We cannot yet evaluate the validity of this story.  If true, it’s big — both in itself and as an indication of the magnitude of events sweeping through the Middle East.

But smoke suggests fire. Probably something is happening in the Middle East, powerful dynamics yet unseen by the American public

In fact, we probably don’t accurately understand much of what’s happening. The players, their goals, their relative strength, what our own government is doing in our name. Probably everybody lies to us, because they see we prefer lies. Facts disturb the comfortable coma into which we’ve fallen.

(4)  Updates to the story (these will also be posted in comments)

Where is Prince Bandar?“, Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, 2 August 2012 — Excerpt:

Was Prince Bandar “Bush”, 63, son of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz (perennial Saudi Defense Minister,1963-2001), semi-perennial ambassador to Washington (1983-2005), and secretive jihad financier, killed by a Syrian intelligence death squad?  Thunderous silence prevails on Syrian, Iranian and Arab media (most of it controlled by the Saudis). The same applies for al-Jazeera. This is DEBKA’s somewhat fanciful take.

Dates are crucial. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud may have pulled off operation “Damascus Volcano” on July 18. He was definitely promoted to head of Saudi intelligence on July 19. And he might have been killed in a bomb attack on the Saudi General Intelligence HQ in Riyadh on July 22.

… So what happened in Riyadh? A graphic Tehran message to the House of Saud? A rogue suicide bomber? An internal Saudi war? The House of Saud is not talking. And Bandar is not moving.

(5)  Tips for reading the news for information

As previous posts in this series have shown, few news stories include the key pieces of the new puzzle, and many accurately describe the facts. In this case, we can see the evolution of the story — from the Syrian websites through Voltaire Network, to the Iranian and Israeli news — and only then to us in America. But most reporters only follow the chain back one or two links.  That’s bad, since facts get tweaked each time the story gets passed on.

Google News is your best friend.  To sort through the many stories, narrow your search — then hit the Sort by Date button. Start with the earliest story, then move forward in time.

Focus on the reliable news agencies.  IMO those are Reuters, BBC, Der Spiegel, AFP (France). If there’s nothing better, use the US sources — the wire agencies (AP, McClatchy) and the major newspapers.

Together we can change the world

(6)  For more information

For all posts about this see the FM Reference Page about Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.

Posts about rumors and misinformation. The Internet can make us dumber — or smarter! These are case histories, like this post.

  1. Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web , 7 February 2008
  2. Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis – and some lessons learned , 8 February 2008
  3. More rumors of war: our naval armada has sailed to Iran!, 9 August 2008 — No, it hasn’t.
  4. Update on the rumored armada sailing to Iran, 13 August 2008
  5. A US naval armada is en route to blockade Iran and start WWIII (the story gets better every day), 14 August 2008
  6. UPI reports on the multi-national armada sailing to Iran, 15 August 2008
  7. Stop the presses: no naval armada has sailed to blockade Iran!, 20 August 2008
  8. Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
  9. Forensic analysis of propaganda: “Michelle Obama Keeps Socialist Books in the White House”, 19 February 2010
  10. We are ignorant because we enjoy being lied to.  Today we look at lies about the US debt., 8 August 2011
  11. A small incident that tells much about America – a flag gets lowered in a classroom!, 5 September 2011
  12. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
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37 Comments leave one →
  1. TATA permalink
    1 August 2012 3:38 am

    THIS IS A BIG ISSUE IF CAN BE VERIFIED. AS YOY MAY KNOW THERE ARE FAMILY RELATIONS AMONG THE SAUD AND THE ALLAWITE LEADERSHIP, IN THE PAST SOME EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION BETWEEN INTEL AGENCIES. THE REVOLT HAS CHANGE EVERITHING. HOW LONG THE SAUD HOUSE WILL STAY IN POWER. ACCORDIN DR, CAMBRONE IS AT THE END OT THE NECONS LIST.

    Like

    • 1 August 2012 4:32 am

      It will be verified or disproven, eventually. Prince Bander will appear in public, or not!

      Like

  2. mirz permalink
    1 August 2012 3:49 am

    New book on how media is being manipulated: Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday (Amazon)

    Like

  3. 1 August 2012 4:32 am

    “Probably everybody lies to us, because they see we prefer lies. Facts disturb the comfortable coma into which we’ve fallen.”

    And they are liars, first and foremostly.
    Very important distinction and note.

    Thx for tip on GOOGLE NEWS

    Breton

    Like

  4. Drake West permalink
    1 August 2012 4:59 am

    Isn’t this the same Prince Bandar who starred in the Micheal Moore file “Fahrenheit 9/11″ The buddy of the Bush family and heavy investor in the Carlyle Group? That would be a huge blow for the US mission of abstinence in this Syrian matter.

    Like

    • 1 August 2012 1:06 pm

      Speaking of Fahrenheit 9/11, here’s an entertaining review: “Unfairenheit 9/11 – The lies of Michael Moore“, By Christopher Hitchens, Slate, 21 June 2004 — Excerpt:

      To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of “dissenting” bravery.

      Like

    • 4 August 2012 1:43 am

      Wasn’t ol’ Chrissy Hitchens a pretty big Bush supporter during his reign of stupidity? I recall him defending Dubya quite often, given his sudden conversion to neoconservativsm (strictly in regards to foreign policy at least). Would make sense he didn’t like Fahrenheit 9/11 (not to say therefore that movie was good, but I don’t think Christopher Hitchens is (or rather was) the best source on this issue) Just my 0.02

      Like

    • 4 August 2012 1:52 am

      Perhaps someone who saw Fahrenheit 9/11 can comment on this!

      Like

  5. Pluto permalink
    1 August 2012 11:29 am

    I had wondered what had prompted the Obama administration to hit Iran with greater sanctions without the usual build-up. This possible assassination might be the cause. The second article notes that the sudden US action caused a reaction outside of the middle east.

    As has been previously noted, panic on all sorts of fronts would result if somebody managed to kill the Saudi intelligence leader.

    Like

  6. Matt D. permalink
    1 August 2012 11:44 am

    Fascinating! I hadn’t even heard about this. If it turns out to be true and went unreported, it would be an instructive demonstration of the selective filtering of news information through the global press.

    Like

  7. Pepe Escobar @ Asia Times asks "Where is Prince Bandar?" permalink
    1 August 2012 2:04 pm

    Where is Prince Bandar?“, Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, 2 August 2012 — Excerpt:

    Was Prince Bandar “Bush”, 63, son of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz (perennial Saudi Defense Minister,1963-2001), semi-perennial ambassador to Washington (1983-2005), and secretive jihad financier, killed by a Syrian intelligence death squad? Thunderous silence prevails on Syrian, Iranian and Arab media (most of it controlled by the Saudis). The same applies for al-Jazeera. This is DEBKA’s somewhat fanciful take.

    Dates are crucial. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud may have pulled off operation “Damascus Volcano” on July 18. He was definitely promoted to head of Saudi intelligence on July 19. And he might have been killed in a bomb attack on the Saudi General Intelligence HQ in Riyadh on July 22.

    … So what happened in Riyadh? A graphic Tehran message to the House of Saud? A rogue suicide bomber? An internal Saudi war? The House of Saud is not talking. And Bandar is not moving.

    Like

    • 1 August 2012 2:47 pm

      The House of Saud is not talking. And Bandar is not moving.”

      I am afraid that probably says a lot.
      Where is Bandar?
      He is not a shy man.

      Breton

      Like

  8. Unna permalink
    1 August 2012 4:30 pm

    For me, the most interesting thing is that it happened at all. The usual image that the Saudi regime cultivates is that it is an absolute security state with no possible threat ever to its survival. If Bandar is dead, it was not by a drive by shooting, bomb under the car sort of thing. It was by a bomb that exploded inside the country’s intelligence HQ. Imagine assignating the head of the CIA by placing a device inside CIA HQ. Who would be able to do such a thing? To me this suggests inter Saudi fighting of the most serious kind.

    Of course this is all speculation, but I’m very skeptical that Syria or Iran could arrange such a thing in only a few days as “revenge”. Besides that makes little sense. Killing the head of intelligence of an opposing state doesn’t make the state policy go away, it may only infuriate people to pursue the policy with more vigor. The bombing in Syria was done to destabilize a regime that’s in the midst of an insurgency and was followed up with an attack by mercenaries (freedom fighters, pardon). That would be logical. A revenge bombing is not only illogical, but it infuriates people, and exposes your inside contacts-operatives.

    Now for the dog that didn’t bark. Where’s the outrage? If it were Iran or Syria one would think that the entire “free” world would be in high propaganda melt down mode. But they’re not. Only hints that it was a “revenge killing”. Then silence. For me, this suggests it was an insider Saudi killing and that there may be a seriously determined and high placed internal opposition to the current Saudi Syria policy and perhaps to the pro Western orientation of the regime itself.

    Of course, no one knows anything for sure but the close to impossible nature of the bombing and the silence afterward is very curious.

    Like

    • Matt D. permalink
      1 August 2012 4:40 pm

      I doubt outrage would have worked in this case, given public US gloating over the hit on Bashar’s security chief. If the rumors are true and it were to come out in public, it would only show embarrassing Saudi weakness without providing a convincing justification for any further escalation.

      Also, tit-for-tat is a very effective tactic in a wide range of strategic situations.

      Like

    • 1 August 2012 9:33 pm

      “the most interesting thing is that it happened at all”

      I see that you know this (from text later in your comment), but let’s emphasize that so far we have zero evidence that Bandar is dead, or that the attack on Saudi intelligence HW happened.

      We see some stories on Syrian websites, picked up by various English-language websites — then blasted across the Internet as fact by the usual loonies (as in the previous incidents documents in the For More Information section).

      Time will tell if this is correct. Either way, it offers some useful lessons for us.

      Like

    • Unna permalink
      1 August 2012 10:53 pm

      Agreed, we don’t know what, if anything, happened. My point is that if something did happen, it seems a stretch that either Syria or Iran had anything to do with it. If something like this happened, it seems more likely that it was a faction within the intelligence organization. Really, how do you get inside HQ with a bomb if you’re not already an insider in cooperation with a number of other insiders. If it happened and it were Syria or Iran, they’d be screaming bloody murder, but they’re not. One possible reason they’re not – if it happened – is what it would say about the stability of the Saudi kingdom.

      Conclusion: If it happened, neither Syria nor Iran are likely involved, and it was most likely an internal Saudi matter, which is the very reason to keep silence. Or if the silence is because it didn’t happen, then where’s Bandar? You’d think they’d take his photo at some falconry picnic or some such thing and let the world see him alive. The fact that we know nothing definite under the circumstances, is, well, curious.

      Like

    • 1 August 2012 11:37 pm

      “it seems a stretch that either Syria or Iran had anything to do with it. … Really, how do you get inside HQ with a bomb if you’re not already an insider”

      As a foreign intelligence service, you get an insider to do it. Deep cover agents. Or use a local, incented by some combination of bribery, blackmail, playing up existing personal-religious-ethnic animosities. There are a hundred ways to play that game.

      Like

    • Unna permalink
      2 August 2012 12:56 am

      Not talking about what’s conceptually possible, but just what’s likely. Seems to me it’s one thing to use various incentives to buy classified information from an individual corrupt insider. But it’s another to get an insider to assassinate his own nation’s security chief. For that you have to be powerfully motivated apart from just some money. If Iran had an insider that close to the chief of security, I think it would rather keep him there for the information – unless you’re trying to destalilize the regime and actually think you have a good chance to do that.

      Example: Stauffenberg was an insider as well as a member of an internal anti regime faction planning a coup. The attempt on Hitler was an element of a planned coup. It wasn’t done for revenge or because of some emotional event that happened a few days earlier. Also once the smoke cleared, so to speak, the regime quickly announced the attempt and that it had failed and put Hitler on the radio to mumble a few words to prove he was alive.

      Of course, by the time I finish this comment, who knows, but that Bandar wth a falcon photo will be all over the internet rendering this discussion interesting, but moot…. We’ll just have to wait to see.

      Like

    • 2 August 2012 1:24 am

      You might be right, as I don’t know the history of such things — let alone the relative incidence of different kinds of attacks. But I wonder if guessing gets us very far.

      What we do know is that the western tradition of the past few centuries has avoided high-level state-to-state assassination. But it’s been a commonplace over larger fields of time and geography. The Bush-Obama administrations have legitimized State-sponsored assassination — that’s one role of a hegemon, setting the rules — and so increased use of this tool should not surprise us, even if in ways we don’t enjoy.

      Like

    • Unna permalink
      2 August 2012 1:34 am

      That’s an very interesting thought, the role of the hegemon in setting the tone. Anyway, this a great site FM, and thanks for running it.

      Like

    • mirz permalink
      2 August 2012 3:06 am

      “Of course this is all speculation, but I’m very skeptical that Syria or Iran could arrange such a thing in only a few days as “revenge””

      Iran or syria has hidden agents in the saudi intelligence that can be quickly activated.

      Like

    • 2 August 2012 3:08 am

      Exactly; this would require deep cover agents.

      Like

    • mirz permalink
      2 August 2012 3:12 am

      i think Iran has demonstrated its ability to quickly activate untraceable suicide bombers with the burgas bombing.

      Like

  9. 1 August 2012 8:30 pm

    “Lies disturb the comfortable coma in which we’ve fallen.”

    couldn’t have said it better. And it’s just so true that people really don’t want to hear the facts and when told the facts, brush it off as either nonsense or because of pure apathy on their part, or even, a lot of the time, misunderstanding and/or lack of knowledge.

    Like

  10. mirz permalink
    2 August 2012 5:14 am

    possibly related assassinations

    ‘Qatar cmdr. assassinated in Turkey’“, Iran English Radio, 28 July 2012:

    A report says a top Qatari air force commander has been assassinated during a visit to the Turkish port city of Istanbul. Mehr news agency reported that colonel Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al Thani, the commander of Qatar’s air security, was targeted near a restaurant on Saturday. There have been no comments from Turkish or Qatari officials on the incident.

    Yemeni intelligence officer shot dead“, Al-Akhbar (Beirut-based news agency, founded 2006), 20 July 2012 — Excerpt:

    (AFP, Al-Akhbar) Gunmen shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer in the south of the country in the latest attack on security agents, the defense ministry said on Friday. Ghazi Said Beidaha was killed when two “al-Qaeda terrorists” driving a motorbike shot him in the southern province of Bayda on Thursday night, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

    On Thursday the head of the police in the southern city of Aden, Colonel Abdullah al-Mawzai, was also killed when a bomb placed in his car exploded as he was heading to work, police said at the time. His killing was also blamed on al-Qaeda. …

    Like

    • 2 August 2012 1:41 pm

      Thanks for posting these!

      I think the first is potentially the more important, by far — the assassination of a Qatar air force officer (rank unknown) killed in Turkey — given the involvement of both nations in Syria, and Qatar’s involvement across the region. For example, Qatar was highly influential in the almost-concluded Libyan civil war. But all we have so far is a story from the Mehr News Agency, which Wikipedia says “is an Iranian news agency owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization (IIDO).” It’s not news yet.

      The second is probably trivia, one day’s deaths in the on-going long civil war in Yemen. “Temeni intelligence officer” tells us little, and does not suggest a high offical.

      Like

  11. David Habakkuk permalink
    3 August 2012 11:12 am

    Fabius Maximus,

    It seems sensible to repost here a comment I have just put up in response to observations of yours on Colonel Lang’s blog.

    I have been trying to think of possible explanations for the lack of any confirmation or denial of the reports of Bandar’s death from the Saudi authorities, although of course my ignorance of the country limits me.

    The recycling of the original Yemeni news agency report on the Iranian PressTV site on 22 July said simply that Bandar’s deputy was killed in an explosion at the Saudi intelligence HQ in Riyadh, when he was entering the building. Subject to correction, the first clearly identifiable suggestion that Bandar had been killed comes in the 29 July Voltaire Net story. The Times of Israel story the following day references this, as well as unidentified Syrian websites – it is not clear whether these, if indeed they existed, would simply have been picking up the Voltaire Net story.

    I do not see how one can absolutely rule out the possibility that, even if Bandar had not been injured at all, the Saudis would have seen reason not to deny the flurry of reports following the Voltaire Net story. It is also possible, of course, that he was injured, but not killed, and the Saudis did not want to say anything until his medical condition clarified.

    A somewhat more likely possibility, however, seems to me that Bandar is actually dead, and that the circumstances in which he died are such that the Saudi authorities are going round in circles trying to work out what ‘spin’ to put on his death.

    This might be the case if his death was the product of power struggles within Saudi Arabia. But it is certainly of interest – in a variety of ways – that the original Voltaire Net report features claims that Bandar used al Yamamah monies, on a large scale, in sponsoring jihadists. A Saudi prince who collaborates with infidels in exploiting Wahhabite fanatics both against other infidels and fellow Muslims deemed heretical is liable to acquire numerous enemies.

    But such a figure may also acquire some dubiously reliable associates. For one thing, it seems to me an open question whether Saudi jihadists who had fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya would necessarily have ended believing that an alliance between Wahhabite clerics and notoriously corrupt – and allegedly, in Bandar’s case, inebriated – royals was the best possible form of government.

    An article on the Voltaire Net by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, entitled ‘The Syrian Intelligence War’ – and also other articles by the same author featured on the site, notably that on ‘The Sino-Russian Alliance’ – also make interesting reading. Like other contributors to Voltaire Net, Nazemroaya also appears on the Russian Strategic Culture Foundation site – although this latest article has not appeared there, yet at least.

    Among other things, the Strategic Culture Foundation site provides an outlet for Russians who believe that Medevedev in particular, but also Putin, have been far too inclined to ‘appease’ the West, and in particular the United States. An interesting example – to be found on the Voltaire Net site — is the bitter denunciation by General Leonid Ivashov of the failure to sell the S-300 missile to Iran.

    Like

    • 3 August 2012 12:59 pm

      Thank you for cross-posting your comment, and making this valuable contribution to our discussion!

      Like

  12. David Habakkuk permalink
    5 August 2012 11:08 am

    There is what looks like as though it could conceivably be a response from the Saudis to the Voltaire Net story on Arab News today. “Thierry Meyssan and Prince Bandar bin Sultan“, Arab News, 4 August 2012

    The article is interesting in a number of ways – among them, the fact that it does not ignore claims about the close links between Bandar and and ultra-Zionist Jeffrey Feltman – appointed not long ago as U.N. Under Secretary General for Political Affairs. Also, while attempting to exonerate the Saudis for the Damascus bombing, the Arab News is happy to insinuate the U.S. may have been involved.

    As to the non-appearance of Bandar, I do not find the explanation given in the story entirely convincing.

    If I had to bet – which fortunately I do not – I would guess that Syrian, Iranian and Russian intelligence were clear that Bandar’s deputy had been killed in the blast, and uncertain whether he himself had escaped. The Voltaire Net report could have been a trial balloon floated by one or another of these, or more than one in combination, designed to sort the matter out one way or another.

    To leave it totally without answer would have tended to confirm suspicions that Bandar was indeed dead, and the line taken in the Arab News story may have seemed the best way of handling the problem. It still seems to me that if Bandar was unhurt, it would have been more sensible to provide proof that that this was so. The possibility that he was not killed, but injured, should not I think be discounted.

    Curiosity, of course, does not establish complicity. It seems clear there was an explosion, and there must have been a lot of rumours going about Riyadh about it, and quite irrespective of whether or not they had any involvement, Syrian and Iranian intelligence agencies would have wanted clarification.

    Like

  13. David Habakkuk permalink
    7 August 2012 5:05 pm

    An extraordinary encomium of Bandar by David Ignatius published in the Washington Post yesterday includes the following paragraph:

    “Bandar would be a useful intermediary, for example, if Saudi Arabia sought nuclear weapons or ballistic missile technology from China to defend against such threats from Iran.”

    It mentions an Iranian report suggesting that Bandar had been assassinated, and continues:

    “the rumor was rebutted Friday by a source who said that Bandar had been in telephone contact with non-Saudis.”

    Hardly the most convincing of rebuttals, one feels. This is all getting seriously strange.

    The report is at the Is Saudi Arabia on the Edge?, David Ignatius, op-ed in the Washington Post, 5 August 2012.

    Like

  14. 25 August 2012 3:35 am

    More evidence that Prince Bandar is alive.

    Here is a quasi-official denial: “Thierry Meyssan and Prince Bandar bin Sultan“, Arab News, 4 August 2012 — Excerpt:

    Last week, Thierry Meyssan wrote on Voltaire that Prince Bandar was killed along with his assistance Mishaal Al-Qarni in a bomb blast on July 26. The same day, Prince Bandar appeared with Prince Khalid bin Sultan at a function. He was also present at the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ reception for princes in Jeddah. This shows that the propaganda against Prince Bandar only aims to stir instability and anarchy.

    The Voltaire Network admitted their error the next day.

    Like

  15. 25 August 2012 3:37 am

    Prince Bandar is alive!

    Princes group photo” at the Islamic Solidarity Summit, 16 August 2012

    From left, Prince Ahmed, Minister of Interior, Prince Abduz Aziz bin Abdullah, Deputy Foreign Minister, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah Region, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Intelligence Chief, during the conference. — Okaz/Agencies photos

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    • David Habakkuk permalink
      25 August 2012 11:54 am

      An interesting piece appeared yesterday in the Aspen Times. Among the evidences supposed to demonstrate that the claims by Voltaire Net were wholly spurious:

      ‘This week, Ignatius confirmed that his source on Bandar was solid. ‘“Yes, before I wrote my piece on Aug. 5, I talked with a source who confirmed, based on personal knowledge, Prince Bandar had been in regular phone contact with foreign officials that week to discuss intelligence matters,” Ignatius wrote in response to an email query.

      ‘Further evidence of Bandar’s continued existence also came on Aug. 14, when the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that noted that Bandar was in attendance at the Islamic Solidarity Summit being held in Mecca.

      ‘And on Aug. 15, the Qatar News Agency reported that Bandar had escorted the emir of Qatar to the airport in Jeddah after the first day of the summit.’
      (See Aspen Times)

      It may be slightly misleading to suggest that the Voltaire Network ‘admitted their error’. Their conclusion ran:

      ‘Arab News mentions the attack on July 26 and the possible death of Mishaal Al-Qani, Prince Bandar’s right-hand man, again without either confirming or denying it.
      ‘Taking note of the information relayed by Arab News on the activities of Prince Bandar, Voltaire Network wishes him a speedy recovery and expresses the hope that no formal commitments will crop up to interfere with his convalescence.’

      What Occam’s Razor suggests, I think, is that there was an attempt on July 26, that Mishaal Al-Qani may well have been killed, and that Bandar probably sustained some injury – but not a sufficient one to incapacitate him, or be conspicuous in someone wearing Arab dress.

      Another Saudi Gazette report relates how King Abdullah sat Ahmadinejad next to him at the summit, as a goodwill gesture. Without wanting to speculate too far, it seems to me that, like the clear suggestion in the Arab News story that the Americans, rather than the Saudis, were likely to have been involved in the attack on the Syrian national security HQ, what we may be seeing is a Saudi desire to cool things down a bit. (See here)

      It would be intelligible if this was a reaction to a partially successful response to the attack in Damascus. The point that things could easily run right out of control may have been successfully made.

      Particularly as at the moment the Syrian government appears to be gaining the upper hand in the civil war, they and the Iranians may also see the advantages of cooling things down.

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