Chimpy’s Bestest Friend Skips Town

This is more than a little odd.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, flew out of Washington yesterday after informing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his staff that he would be leaving the post after only 15 months on the job, according to U.S. officials and foreign envoys. There has been no formal announcement from the kingdom.

The abrupt departure is particularly striking because his predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, spent 22 years on the job. The Saudi ambassador is one of the most influential diplomatic positions in Washington and is arguably the most important overseas post for the oil-rich desert kingdom.

Turki, a long-serving former intelligence chief, told his staff yesterday afternoon that he wanted to spend more time with his family, according to Arab diplomats. Colleagues said they were shocked at the decision.

The exit — without the fanfare, parties and tributes that normally accompany a leading envoy’s departure, much less a public statement — comes as his brother, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the highly influential Saudi foreign minister, is ailing.

Should we read more into this? Is Turki al-Faisal jetting back to The Kingdom to be by his ailing brother’s side, or are we witnessing the beginnings of an upheaval in the House of Saud?

3 thoughts on “Chimpy’s Bestest Friend Skips Town

  1. Financial Times version
    Saudi envoy to US setto step down By Stephen Fidler andRoula Khalaf in London
    Published: December 12 2006 02:00 | Last updated: December 12 2006 02:00
    Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, is set to step down only a year after he took up the position.
    People close to the Saudi government said an an-nouncement of his departure was expected shortly and would depict the move as being at Prince Turki’s request. They said his decision was related to Saudi domestic matters and not directly connected to Saudi-US relations, but declined to elaborate further.
    However, analysts said his resignation raised questions about possible disagreements between Prince Turki, a former head of Saudi intelligence and ambassador to London, and Riyadh over regional and international policy.
    The move comes amid an internal debate about how the kingdom, whose official creed is an austere form of Sunni Islam, should support the Sunni minority population in Iraq, which is seen as threatened by the ascendancy of Shia militias.
    Prince Turki’s departure had been rumoured for some time and was not, it appeared, a direct consequence of a controversial article about Iraq written by one of his advisers last month.
    In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on November 29, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security expert and adviser to Prince Turki, said the Saudi government was preparing to revise its Iraq policy in the face of a possible US withdrawal from the country.
    Options included, Mr Obaid said, providing Sunni insurgent leaders with arms and finance, establishing new Sunni brigades to combat Iranian militias and strangling Iranian funding by engineering a cut in oil prices, which would hit Tehran far harder than Riyadh.
    Mr Obaid said he was expressing a personal opinion. However, after the article appeared, Prince Turki said that Mr Obaid’s agreement as a consultant had been terminated in order to emphasise his independence from the Saudi government.
    In a statement reported by Reuters yesterday, 38 prominent Saudi clerics called for action to support Iraq’s Sunni population, who it said were being murdered and marginalised by the Shia, supported by Iran and by US forces.
    “We direct this message to all concerned about Shi’ites in the world: the murder, torture and displacement of Sunnis. . . is an outrage,” said the statement, signed by 38 leading clerics and preachers, including Abdel-Rahman al-Barrak, Safar al-Hawali and Nasser al-Omar.
    “Muslims must stand directly with our Sunni brothers in Iraq and support them by all appropriate, well-studied means,” it said.
    Prince Turki’s predecessor in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, stayed in the post for more than two decades.
    Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

  2. I make some baseless speculation about what is going on here.
    The short version? Saudi Arabia sent some pretty clear messages about which parts of the ISG report they thought were important. And those are precisely the bits Dick has been stomping all over for the last week. So I suspect this is a little message to us about how seriously Saudi Arabia takes those recommendations.
    I’d also suggest that scout prime’s caption contest from yesterday may be related–the picture with Bush, Dick, and COndi? Those three certainly look like people who have just learned their fuckup in the ME is about to get much bigger.

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