Jetzt wird der damalige Saudi Geheimdienst Chef Prinz Turki, auch noch Botschafter in den USA.

Saudischer Botschafter in Washington abgelöst

Von Reymer Klüver




Washington -- Der langjährige Botschafter Saudi-Arabiens in Washington, Prinz Bandar bin Sultan, hat überraschend seinen Posten geräumt. Nachfolger wird der frühere saudische Geheimdienstchef und jetzige Botschafter in London, Prinz Turki al-Faisal. Beide sind hochrangige Mitglieder des saudischen Königshauses. Der Abschied Bandars, vor allem aber die Ernennung Turkis wird in Washington mit Skepsis kommentiert. Bandar gilt als enger Vertrauter von Präsident George W. Bush. Turki werden ungeklärte frühere Verbindungen zu Terroristenführer Osama bin Laden und den Taliban nachgesagt.

Wie angesehen Bandar in Washington ist, zeigt nicht zuletzt die Erklärung, die der Sprecher des Weißen Hauses, Scott McClellan, nach Bekanntwerden des Wechsels abgab. Der jetzige Präsident und seine Vorgänger hätten den "Geist, Charme und Humor" und den Ratschlag Bandars hoch geschätzt. Bandar war seit 22 Jahren Botschafter in Washington, in den vergangenen zwei Jahren allerdings kaum noch in den USA. Dennoch unterhielt er enge Verbindungen zu Präsident Bush, auf dessen Ranch er im Sommer 2002 eingeladen war. Auch nach den Anschlägen vom 11. September war er zur Stelle, wurde von Bush im Weißen Haus empfangen. Symbolträchtiger hätte damals die enge Verbindung von Prinz und Präsident nicht demonstriert werden können.

Bandar ist zweifellos eine schillernde Figur, Liebhaber von Zigarren und wie es heißt, unislamischen Getränken nicht abgeneigt. Er verfügt über exzellente Verbindungen, die er für politische wie für Wirtschaftsgeschäfte nutzte. So fädelte er einen Vier-Milliarden-Dollar-Deal zwischen Saudi-Arabien und Boeing ein, quasi als Kompensation für ein Geschäft mit Iran, das Boeing wegen der amerikanischen Wirtschaftssanktionen Airbus überlassen musste. Die amerikanische Regierung unter Präsident Bill Clinton hatte ihn um Hilfe gebeten. Auch die Annäherung zwischen Libyen und den USA geht auf seine Vermittlung zurück. In Anspielung auf seine Ausbildung als Kampfpilot und seine diplomatische Hilfestellung bei der Vorbereitung des ersten Golfkriegs wurde Bandar zu Zeiten von George Bushs Vater im Weißen Haus "Top Gun" genannt.

Warum Bandar zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt nach Saudi-Arabien zurückkehrt, ist nicht völlig klar. Die einen nennen gesundheitliche Probleme als Grund. Andere weisen auf die heikle politische Lage im Königreich hin. Für den Fall, dass Kronprinz Abdullah auch formell die Nachfolge des todkranken Königs Fahd antritt, soll angeblich Bandars Vater zum Kronprinzen aufrücken. Auch Prinz Turki verfügt über enge Verbindungen in Amerika. Wie Bandar hat er in den USA studiert.

(SZ vom 22.7.2005)

New Saudi envoy to US is former spy chief
Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal (Wikipedia) Wikipedia

ISN SECURITY WATCH (21/07/05) - The Saudi government announced on Wednesday it would replace its ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, with the country’s envoy to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who previously was his country’s intelligence chief and in that capacity met several times with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The appointment comes at a crucial time for Saudi-US relations, which are once again on the upswing following tensions after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington, and a field in western Pennsylvania were identified as Saudi nationals. Much of the membership of al-Qaida, the group blamed for the attacks, was also Saudi, as was bin Laden.

The Saudi government was accused of not doing enough to crack down on Islamic militancy within the country. It also was accused of financing Islamic religious schools (madrassas), worldwide, which churned out youths who would take up arms to fight alongside their Muslim brothers in Kashmir, Chechnya, and Bosnia.

Turki, who was the Saudi intelligence chief until one month before the 9/11 attacks, had maintained close ties with bin Laden and much of al-Qaida’s leadership. By his own admission, he met them on several occasions in the 1980s, during the US-backed war on Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Those links are now believed to be severed, and Turki has since described al-Qaida as “an evil cult”.

In 1998, he tried - unsuccessfully - to have bin Laden extradited from Afghanistan where the al-Qaida leader was living at the time.

When asked about Turki’s links to terror groups and bin Laden, US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters on Wednesday the issue was no longer relevant.

“I think those issues have been dealt with,” he said. “And we expect that he will be the representative of the government of Saudi Arabia, and we look forward to working with him as the representative of the government of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Turki, who is 60 years old, was appointed Saudi intelligence chief in 1977. He was replaced in August 2001. Since January 2003, he has served as the kingdom’s envoy to London.
Relations on the mend

Relations with Washington are on the mend primarily because of the Saudi crackdown on militant groups. Last year, Saudi Arabia was the scene of several attacks on Western targets, but over the past six months has captured or killed a number of al-Qaida members, including its top leadership.

Those victories, along with some minor political reforms pushed by the Bush administration as part of its agenda to press for political change in the broader Middle East, has helped mend ties.

Turki replaces Bandar, the dean of Washington’s diplomatic corps, who was seen as a close confidant of several US presidents, lawmakers, and policymakers. He was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years and played a key role in the first Gulf War when Saudi Arabia sided with the US to expel Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait.

The Saudi government announced the decision in a statement, but provided no reason for Bandar’s resignation. President Bush, in a statement, wished him a “fond farewell”.

“In troubled times US presidents past and present have relied upon Ambassador Bandar’s advice,” Bush said. “In good times, they have enjoyed his wit, charm, and humor. Throughout his tenure Ambassador Bandar has remained a close, steadfast friend to the United States.”

At the State Department, Ereli called him “a great friend and valued adviser, valued confidant of many secretaries of State, as well as other State Department officials who have worked on behalf of this very important relationship”.

He said he did not expect the relationship between the two countries to change now that Bandar, a staunch advocate of closer ties with the US, was leaving.

“That relationship is going to continue to evolve and continue to grow and continue to develop with a new ambassador,” Ereli said. “And I wouldn’t expect the departure of Bandar or the arrival of Prince Turki to cause a blip in how we deal with each other.”

Turki was born in the holy city of Mecca and is the brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. He was educated at Princeton and Georgetown Universities in the US, and at Cambridge in Britain.
(By Krishnadev Calamur in Washington, DC)

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?id=12258