Prince Bandar had just been appointed head of Saudi intelligence on July 24: a promotion which was interpreted as a reward for having organized the attack in Damascus on July 18. The Saudi services, with logistical support from the CIA, had managed to blow up the headquarters of the Syrian National Security during a Crisis Cell meeting: Generals Assef Chaoukat, Daoud Rajha and Hassan Tourkmani were killed instantly. General Amin Hicham Ikhtiar died soon after from his wounds. This operation, called “Damascus Volcano” was the signal for the attack on the capital by a swarm of mercenaries, mainly coming from Jordan.
Prince Bandar was himself the target of a bomb attack on July 26, and subsequently succumbed to his injuries.
A brilliant and cynical personality, Prince Bandar was 63 years old. He was the son of Prince Sultan (irremovable defense minister from 1963 until his death in 2011) and of a slave. Confidant of King Fahd, Bandar was ambassador to Washington throughout his reign (1983-2005). He became close to George H. Bush (then Vice-President of the United States), who regarded him as an “adopted son,” prompting the U.S. press to dub him “Bandar Bush”. Endowed with an outstanding genius for covert action, he brokered the Al-Yamamah arms deal, managing to divert more than one billion pounds, according to British official sources. He then used this windfall, and many more, to finance the activities of jihadist groups around the world, including Al Qaeda.
In early 2010, Prince Bandar attempted to overthrow King Abdullah to place his own father on the throne. The plot failed and he was banished from the kingdom, but the monarch’s declining health enabled him to return to Saudi Arabia a year later. Since the death of Prince Sultan in October 2011, he had become the de facto leader of the Sudairi clan, the hawkish wing within the royal family.
His death constitutes a serious blow to the whole system of Western covert action in the Muslim world. It took Syria only one week to mount this spectacular reprisal operation.