By appointing Prince Bandar bin Sultan as its new intelligence chief, Saudi Arabia has installed what looks like a war cabinet at a time of rising tensions with growing internal dissent.
The installation of a new intelligence chief came as Saudi Arabia was stepping up its support for insurgents in Syria seeking to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Bandar has also been active in secret missions with Syria and Lebanon for decades, and the Wall Street Journal reported that he helped arrange a recent visit to Saudi Arabia by Gen. Manaf Tlass, the highest-ranking Syrian defector.
Bandar is especially well-placed to manage intelligence liaison with the United States, given his two decades here as ambassador. Bandar maintained close relations with the CIA during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and was said to have helped organize secret funding for joint Saudi-American covert actions in the Middle East.
During the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, Bandar was so close to President George H.W. Bush that he became known as "Bandar Bush,” a moniker that continued under President George W. Bush.