The new Saudi spy chief was once one of the most popular and well-connected diplomats in Washington, where he served as ambassador for 22 years and enjoyed such easy access to both Bush White Houses and so close to both presidents that he earned the nickname Bandar Bush.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan has kept a low profile since he was recalled in 2005 by King Abdullah, who this week named him to head the kingdom's General Intelligence Directorate. His Washington connections – including with Jewish members of Congress — and experience suggest his surprise appointment was intended to strengthen US-Saudi relations following disagreements over responses to last year's Arab uprisings.
A former jet fighter pilot with a preference for Cuban cigars, the Dallas Cowboys and the good life, Bandar, 63, is considered the regime's leading hawk and a strong supporter of the Syrian rebels trying to overthrow Bashar Assad. He is said to favor arming the rebels, which Saudi Arabia and Qatar are doing already.
David Ottaway, his biographer and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said Bandar is "just the right person for the right time in Saudi."