Bandar bin Sultan

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Person.png Bandar bin Sultan   PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Bandar Mandela.jpg
Prince Bandar bin Sultan with Nelson Mandela
Born2 March 1949
Parents • Sultan bin Abdulaziz
• Khizaran
SpouseHaifa bint Faisal
Member ofHouse of Saud
Former director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency.

Employment.png Director of Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah

In office
19 July 2012 - 15 April 2014
Saudi state media announced that he was removed from this position "at his own request".

Employment.png Secretary General of the National Security Council

In office
16 October 2005 - 29 January 2015
The first holder of this post.

Employment.png Saudi Ambassador to the United States

In office
24 October 1983 - 8 September 2005
Took probably more than $1 billion from the Al-Yamamah arms deal at this time.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan is a member of the House of Saud and was Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief until April 2014.[1][2] Prince Bandar was not only the Saudi ambassador in Washington for 22 years (1983 to 2005) and a close friend of Ronald Reagan and the Bush family, but he also negotiated the 1985 £43 billion Al-Yamamah weapons deal with Margaret Thatcher, which Tony Blair renewed in 2007 with the Al-Salam weapons deal.


Bandar was born officially on 2 March 1949 in Taif.[3] His actual date of birth is later according to himself and Western think tanks. He had reportedly faked his birthday to enter the Royal Saudi Air Force,[4]

His mother, Khiziran, was a sixteen-year old commoner from Asir Province and his father, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, was in his early twenties at the time of Bandar's birth. His mother was a concubine. She later learnt to read and write. Bandar lived with his mother and his aunt in his early years, and he had little contact with his father when he was very young. His first close contact with his father occurred when he was eight years old. Bandar's isolation ended when he was eleven years old, a few years later when King Abdulaziz died. It was decided that he and his mother should live with his paternal grandmother Hassa Al Sudairi in the palace.


Bandar graduated from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1968.[5] He received additional training at Maxwell Air Force Base and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He is a trained pilot and has flown numerous fighter aircraft. Bandar's military career ended in 1977 after he crash-landed his jet and suffered a severe back injury.[6] Afterward, he received a master's degree in International Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.[7]

Arms dealing

When the UK Serious Fraud Office was making progress investigating bribes which BAE Systems paid him, Bandar allegedly threatened blood in the streets of London. The Guardian newspaper revealed a couple of months later how BAE Systems in collusion with the British government had laundered bribes to Prince Bandar of over £1bn through Riggs Bank in Washington DC and other US banks. Prince Bandar and Margaret Thatcher negotiated the Al-Yamamah deal under the UK Official Secrets Act, meaning that it cannot be investigated in Britain. Saudi Arabia ships thousands of barrels per day of oil consigned to the Bank of England, which is then distributed to Shell and BP. Over the years a surplus has developed, which is guesstimated to be worth over $150bn. Its purpose is a) to guarantee British and US support for the Saudi royal family against domestic insurrection and b) to fund covert destabilisation of resource-rich countries in Asia and Africa under the guise of the war on terror. Having targeted Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and other countries over the years, Syria and Egypt are Prince Bandar’s current targets.

Reports from Syria by Jordanian journalists allege that it was Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia who distributed those chemical weapons to the Syrian rebels.[8] If true, it indicates the chemical attack in Damascus to have been a false-flag operation by the American war business. This would be entirely in keeping with Prince Bandar’s history of organising the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, the Iran-Contra weapons exchanges, Libya in 2011, the suppression of the Shia uprising in Bahrain, Saudi support for the coup d’etat in Egypt and support for Syrian rebels. Other reports confirm that Prince Bandar also went to see Russian President Vladimir Putin in August 2013 and offered to buy $15bn worth of Russian weapons provided Mr Putin abandoned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Putin gave him short shrift.[9]

Saudi Arabia made lavish donations to the African National Congress. Prince Bandar was also the only foreigner present at Nelson Mandela’s secret wedding to Graca Machel and was a frequent visitor to South Africa when the arms deal was being negotiated.

Initial career

Prince Bandar joined the Royal Saudi Air Force, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.[10] His diplomatic career began in 1978 when he was appointed the King's personal envoy. He successfully lobbied the United States Congress to approve the sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. In the Oval Office, US President Carter told him to win the support of California governor Ronald Reagan. He did and in exchange helped Carter win the support of South Dakota Democratic Senator James Abourezk for the Panama Canal Treaty. Fahd made Bandar an emissary to Carter and granted him permission to act independently of the Saudi-U.S. ambassador.

In 1982, King Fahd made him the military attache at the Saudi Embassy, a move which could have ended his diplomatic career. However, in 1983, Fahd appointed Bandar as Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador to the United States (1983–2005)

On 24 October 1983, Prince Bandar was appointed ambassador to the United States by King Fahd.[11] During his tenure as ambassador, he dealt with five US Presidents, ten Secretaries of State, eleven national security advisors, sixteen sessions of Congress, and the media.[12] He had extensive influence in the United States. At the pinnacle of his career, he served both "as the King's exclusive messenger and the White House's errand boy". For over three decades, he was the face of the Saudi Arabia lobby.[13] The US is widely seen as one of Saudi Arabia's most essential allies, but different members of the royal family feel different mixtures of trust and suspicion of the United States. Therefore Prince Bandar's intimate relationships with US leaders and policy-makers are considered to be both the source of his power base in the kingdom, as well as the cause of suspicions within the royal family that he is too close to US political figures.[14]

Reagan era

During the Reagan presidency, he secured the purchase of AWACs surveillance aircraft despite opposition from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. After the United States rejected an arms order, he arranged the delivery of intermediate-range nuclear-warhead-capable missiles from China. This angered the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Department of State. He was exposed for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. He had arranged $32 million in Saudi financing for the Nicaraguan Contras. Nancy Reagan used him to relay messages to the Cabinet.

Bush presidencies

Bandar has formed close relationships with several American presidents, notably George H W Bush and George W Bush, the latter giving him the affectionate and controversial nickname "Bandar Bush".[15] His particularly close relationship with the Bush family was highlighted in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. He was reportedly so close to George H W Bush that he was often described as a member of the former president's family.[16] He advocated Saddam Hussein's overthrow in Iraq in March 2003.[17] He encouraged military action against Iraq and supported Dick Cheney's agenda for "The New Middle East", which called for pro-democracy programs in both Syria and Iran. Additionally, Prince Bandar's children supposedly attended the same school where Cheney's grandchildren were enrolled.

Clinton era

Bill Clinton, as Governor of Arkansas, had asked Prince Bandar to help pay for the Middle East Studies Center at the University of Arkansas.

In the late 1990s during Bill Clinton's second term as President, Prince Bandar had a role in persuading Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to turn in two suspects allegedly involved in the Lockerbie bombing. According to Paul Foot's article "Lockerbie: the Flight from Justice", Nelson Mandela was irritated by the continued sanctions on Libya. He was friendly with Muammar Gaddafi, who had contributed generously to the African National Congress, Mandela’s party, when it was engaged in illegal and armed opposition to the apartheid regime.

President Mandela firmly believed that Libya was being singled out for special hostility by the United States and, in the case of Lockerbie, he regarded the treatment of Libya as unfounded and unfair. To the intense irritation of the US State Department Mandela launched a diplomatic offensive to persuade Gaddafi to release the two men for trial by Scottish judges in Europe.

President Mandela chose as his chief negotiator and plenipotentiary his most trusted adviser and confidant, the secretary to the South African Cabinet and head of the country’s civil service, Professor Jakes Gerwel, former vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape. Mandela also persuaded Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia to take part in the negotiations with Gaddafi. The Prince and the Cabinet Secretary, Mandela knew, were trusted by the Libyan president as much as anyone else in the world.

The negotiations went on for a year until 5 April 1999 when the two suspects - Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa Fhimah - finally gave themselves up for trial by Scottish judges under Scottish law (with one exception: everyone agreed that the men should be tried without a jury).[18]

Prince Bandar privately described Gaddafi as "a Jerry Lewis trying to be a Winston Churchill".


On 26 June 2005, Bandar submitted his resignation as ambassador to the United States for "personal reasons".[19][20] The official end date of his term was 8 September 2005. Bandar bin Sultan returned to Saudi Arabia weeks prior to the death of King Fahd, upon which Bandar's father, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, became the nation's Crown Prince. It was rumoured that Bandar's return was timed in order to secure a position in the new government.[21]

Prince Bandar was succeeded as ambassador by his cousin, Prince Turki Al Faisal. Nevertheless even after leaving the ambassadorship, Bandar continued to maintain strong relationships within the Bush administration and to meet with high-ranking White House staff even after Prince Turki took over the post; Turki gave up the ambassador's job after only 18 months.

Secretary-General of National Security Council (2005–present)

In October 2005, King Abdullah appointed Bandar bin Sultan as Secretary-General of the newly created Saudi National Security Council.[22]

Prince Bandar visited Damascus and met president Bashar Assad in mid-November 2005.[23] He also secretly met with US officials in 2006 after resigning as ambassador.[24] Seymore Hersh reported in 2007 in the New Yorker that as Saudi Arabia's national security adviser, Bandar bin Sultan continued to meet privately with both President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. At that time Hersh described Bandar as a key architect of the Bush Administration policy in Iraq and the Middle East.

On 25 January 2007, Saudi Arabia sent Prince Bandar to Iran for discussions on the crisis in Lebanon and the Kingdom even held talks with Hezbollah leaders, whom he had invited for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.[25] After tensions with Qatar over supplying rebel groups, Saudi Arabia (under Bandar's leadership of its Syria policy) switched its efforts from Turkey to Jordan in 2012, using its financial leverage over Jordan to develop training facilities there, with Bandar sending his half-brother and deputy Salman bin Sultan to oversee them.

Prince Bandar's tenure as Secretary-General was extended for four years on 3 September 2009.[26]

Disappearance and rumours

After the King renewed Bandar's post on the National Security Council for an additional 4-year term in September 2009, Bandar failed to make the customary public demonstration of his allegiance to the King. This noticeable absence was followed by others: an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Bandar did not appear in his customary seat—next to owner Jerry Jones in Jones's skybox—for the home opener of the new Cowboys Stadium. In October 2009, he was not present in King Abdullah's delegation for the watershed Damascus visit. Most strikingly, in December 2009, Prince Bandar was not present for the return of his father, Crown Prince Sultan, from Morocco. After that event, journalists began to report on Bandar's disappearance, noting that his last appearance in public had been with King Abdullah in Jeddah on the 10th of December 2008.

Hugh Miles of the London Review of Books reported rumours that Bandar was undergoing surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Bandar's lawyer denied these rumours;[27] he has no spokesman.

Le Figaro's Middle East blog reported that Bandar had been in a hospital in France, and was recuperating in Morocco.[28]

Iran's Press TV reported that Bandar was under house arrest for an attempted coup.[29][30] Saudi opposition sources said he was in Dhaban Prison. Some rumours alleged that his coup was exposed by Russian intelligence services because of his frequent trips to Moscow to encourage cooperation against Iran.

In October 2010, Middle East analyst Simon Henderson reported in Foreign Policy that Prince Bandar had made his first public appearance in almost two years. Citing official Saudi media, Henderson reported that Bandar had been greeted at the airport by "a virtual who's who of Saudi political figures." Henderson noted that no explanation had been given for the Prince's whereabouts for the previous two years—the only detail was that he had returned "from abroad." Henderson and other analysts viewed this reemergence as a sign of Bandar's rehabilitation into the active politics of the kingdom[31]

In what was perceived as a return to prominence, in March 2011, Bandar was sent to Pakistan, India, Malaysia, and China to gather support for Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Bahrain.[32] In April 2011, Bandar was present in meetings when US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates visited King Abdullah and in a separate visit by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.[33]

The other goal of his late March 2011 visit to Islamabad was to raise the prospect of a return engagement for the Pakistan Army. The goal was achieved and Pakistan quickly approved the proposal.[34] His visit to China during the same period resulted in the issuing of lucrative contracts in return for political support. Since China is not a friend of the Arab Spring, it is eager for Saudi oil and investment. Bandar secretly negotiated the first big Saudi-Chinese arms deal. Thus, Bandar is the Kingdoms's premier China expert.

Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency (2012–2014)

Bandar bin Sultan was appointed Director General of Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah (Saudi Intelligence Agency) on 19 July 2012 replacing Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.[35] Although no official reason for the appointment was provided,[36] the appointment occurred after growing tension between Sunnis and Shiites in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.[37] It was also considered as a move of Saudi Arabia to display more aggressive foreign policy given the regional challenges that comes from Iran and Syria.[38] Prince Bandar is also a member of the Military Service Council.[39]

Prince Bandar organised the visit of Manaf Tlass, who defected from Syria on 6 July 2012, to Saudi Arabia in the last week of July 2012.[40]

In 2013 Prince Bandar said that the Saudis would "shift away" from the United States over Syrian and Iranian policy.[41]

Control of Chechen Terrorists

According to a number of articles, Prince Bandar, confronted Vladimir Putin in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria, stating "I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us".[42] Putin then rejected the proposal furiously by saying "we know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global "terrorism" that you mentioned."[43]

Bandar had been tasked with managing Saudi policy in the Syrian civil war, but he was replaced in early 2014 by interior minister Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. Bandar took a confrontational tone with the United States and was called a "problem" privately by US Secretary of State John Kerry. However, Bandar had also been struggling with poor health stemming from the 1977 plane crash, leading to speculation that this was why he was replaced.[44]

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reportedly complained about secret Saudi Arabian support for militant groups saying, "They are attacking Iraq, through Syria and in a direct way, and they announced war on Iraq, as they announced it on Syria, and unfortunately it is on a sectarian and political basis."[45]

Assassination rumours

In July 2012, the rumours of his assassination were reported by the Voltaire Network[46] and DEBKAfile[47][48] and later published in Press TV[49] and Tehran Times.[50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57] This news was denied by Arab News[58] and the journalist David Ignatius.[59][60]

In August 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that Bandar had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia's efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad and that the US Central Intelligence Agency considered this a sign of how serious Saudi Arabia was about this aim. The Journal reported that in late 2012 Saudi intelligence, under Bandar's direction, began efforts to convince the US that the Assad government was using chemical weapons. Bandar was also described as "jetting from covert command centres near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime."[61]

Arms Deals

Bandar admitted that President George W Bush informed him of the decision to invade Iraq ahead of Secretary of State Colin Powell.[62]

Bandar and his friends in Le Cercle was involved in the sprawling and massively corrupt 1985 Al-Yamamah arms deal, which moved over 100 fighter planes from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia, and according to one account generated "at least $80 billion in unaccounted-for loot". In 2009, Bandar hired former FBI Chief Louis Freeh as his legal representative for the Al-Yamamah arms scandal.[63] Freeh has admitted that British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) paid at least £1 billion (US$2 billion) into two accounts of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation at Riggs Bank in Washington, DC[64]. This were paid in yearly installments of up to £120 million (US$240 million). The Guardian noted that "from the start, the Al-Yamamah contract was shrouded in secrecy and suspicions began to surface that contracts were a result of kickbacks and bribery to members of the Saudi royal family and government officials". According to investigators, there was "no distinction between the accounts of the embassy, or official government accounts [...], and the accounts of the royal family." The payments were discovered during a Serious Fraud Office investigation, which was stopped in December 2006 by attorney general Lord Goldsmith.[65][66]

In the summer of 2013, after US, UK and French officials accused Syria's Assad regime of using chemical weapons against its opponents, Syria, Russia and Iran, countered with assertions that the chemical weapons had actually been deployed by the Syrian rebels themselves in a false flag attack designed to bring international condemnation down on the Syrian government. Prince Bandar became one focus of these accusations, in particular according to the findings of American news organisation Mint Press News reports of the Ghouta residents;[67]

Iranian media also have asserted that Bandar was the source of these alleged weapons transfers.[68]

Personal life

In 1972, Bandar married Haifa bint Faisal, with whom he had eight children: four sons and four daughters. The youngest two (Hussa, and Azus) attended Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, while living in the town from 2001 to 2005. His daughter Princess Reema bint Bandar, who was formerly married to Prince Faisal bin Turki,[69] organised the world's largest pink ribbon event in Saudi Arabia to raise awareness for breast cancer. His son Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud is married to Lucy Cuthbert, niece of Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.

Habits and health concerns

In Washington DC, Bandar earned a reputation for partying and drinking. He may have recently abandoned alcohol after a death scare in the family.[70] In the mid-1990s, he suffered his first depression.[71] His health problems were reported to have continued into the 2010s, often being treated abroad.[72]


Bandar considers himself an American Hamiltonian conservative. Before the 2000 US presidential election was decided, he invited George H W Bush to go pheasant shooting on his English estate in a "Desert Storm reunion". After 9-11, in an interview in the New York Times, he stated, "Bin Laden used to come to us when America through the CIA and Saudi Arabia, were helping our brother mujahideen in Afghanistan, to get rid of the communist secularist Soviet Union forces. Osama bin Laden came and said 'Thank you. Thank you for bringing the Americans to help us.' At that time, I thought he couldn’t lead eight ducks across the street."[73]

Bandar argued some researchers "learn to speak a few words of Arabic and call themselves experts about the affairs of my country."[74] In 2007, during his tenure as National Security Secretary, Bandar proposed that the Kingdom have greater contact with Israel, because he regarded Iran as a more serious threat than Israel.[75]


He travels frequently on his private Airbus A-340 aircraft. He owns Glympton Park, Oxfordshire.[76] Bandar owned an estate with a 32-room house in Aspen, Colorado. He bought the land in 1989 and built the residence in 1991. On 12 July 2006, it was reported that Prince Bandar was seeking to sell his mansion in Aspen, Colorado, for US $135 million. The palatial vacation home, called Hala Ranch, is larger than the White House, is perched on a mountaintop and includes 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms featuring 24-karat gold fixtures. In December 2006, the mansion was still listed for sale at $135 million. In December 2007, the guesthouse was sold for a reported $36.5 million.[77] The purported reason for the sale is that Bandar was too busy to enjoy the mansion.[78] Finally, he sold his Aspen ranch for $49 million to Starwood Mountain Ranch LLC in June 2012.[79] It is reported that billionaire John Paulson bought Hala Ranch,[80] and Paulson confirmed it.[81]


Event Participated in

WEF/Annual Meeting/201620 January 201623 January 2016Switzerland
World Economic Forum
Attended by over 2500 people, both leaders and followers, who were explained how the Fourth Industrial Revolution would changed everything, including being a "revolution of values".


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Bandar ibn Israelarticle28 August 2013Sharmine NarwaniThe collusion of Saudi Arabia's Bandar bin Sultan with Israel in acts of terrorist violence in the Middle East through 2013.
Document:Leaked Putin-Bandar meeting reportdiplomatic communication25 August 2013Leaked report of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Bandar bin Sultan, then intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia, during which bin Sultan issues scarcely veiled threats against the Sochi winter Olympics if Russia continued to frustrate actions to depose President Assad of Syria
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  2. "Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan Removed"
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