Bandar Bush's Successor - Head of Saudi Intelligence for 24 Years

Saudi Bond and George Smiley

Bandar's successor as ambassador is Prince Turki bin Faisal, the ambassador in London for the past three years, who was head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years before that. If Bandar is Saudi Arabia's James Bond, Turki is the kingdom's George Smiley (of John Le Carre fame).
By the time the defeated Soviets slunk out of Afghanistan in February 1989, bin Laden had been elevated to hero status in Saudi Arabia. So when bin Laden asked to see Turki Aug. 2, 1990, the day Saddam Hussein invaded Iraq, he was not kept waiting. What followed was described by Turki as one of history's most expensive laughs. Bin Laden told Turki he knew the royals were thinking of inviting the U.S. Army to the kingdom to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait, but that this was not necessary as bin Laden's "Afghan Arab" fighters could do the job. Turki laughed and a furious bin Laden stormed out of his office.

That was a crucial turning point in the history of the world. Bin Laden concluded the royal family was conspiring with Washington to facilitate the occupation of Saudi Arabia and the control of its oil-production facilities. Bin Laden also became convinced Saddam had been entrapped into invading Kuwait to provide a pretext for U.S. occupation. That was when he decided to take on the royal family - and later became the world's most-wanted terrorist.

Turki produced the biggest, as yet unsolved, mystery when he resigned as intelligence chief after a quarter of a century at the helm - just three weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He says it was a sheer coincidence. Many Arabs, to the conspiracy theory born, believe Turki knew something very big was in the works and that some Saudis were involved. He didn't know what or where. But he decided to get out of the way lest he be blamed. Again, Turki laughs. He explained 24 years was a very long time to be in the same demanding job and he needed time to smell the desert. That didn't last very long before he accepted the job as ambassador to the Court of St. James. He has many friends in the United States and will be a welcome change after Bandar.