Bandar’s Hot and Cold Running Jihadis

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In my questioning of the Administration’s case on Syria, I have focused on holes within their own story — inconsistent numbers, claims about chain-of-command even while boasting of a hundred defections, false assurances about the reliability of the rebels. Note, too, Jim’s catch about the timing of a rebel advance.

All the while I’ve been reading the several strands of stories alleging that rebel-tied people, not Assad, caused the attack. There’s the story that hacked emails show a recently retired American Colonel assuring his wife that the dead Syrian kids were just for show. There’s a new letter from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (who warned about the Iraq WMD) warning that Syria is a trap.

I’m not confident yet I buy these stories — and besides, there’s plenty of evidence that Vladimir Putin is waging as heavy a propaganda battle as the US government, so it could well be Russian propaganda.

But given all this, there’s one more item that deserves far more attention. Back in early August, I noted a Reuters report of a meeting between Bandar bin Sultan and Putin, in which Bandar offered Putin a lot of things he couldn’t deliver so long as Putin would give up on supporting Bashar al-Assad.

The day of the CW attack, what is clearly Putin’s version of the story got published. In addition to it depicting Bandar basically concluding (at the end of July) that “there is no escape from the military option” in Syria, it also alleged that Bandar claimed he could shut down jihadist influence in Syria and suggested he could prevent Chechen terrorists from attacking the Sochi Olympics. Or not, depending on whether Putin cooperated.

Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values ​​and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. … As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.

Putin thanked King Abdullah for his greetings and Bandar for his exposition, but then he said to Bandar, “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. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”

Again, this is clearly Putin’s version of the meeting. We should assume it is at least partly propaganda.

However, the allegation that Bandar either implicitly or explicitly threatened the Olympics does very closely resemble a threat Bandar is documented to have made in the past.

Back in 2004, the British Serious Fraud Office started to investigate the Al-Yamamah arms deal under Maggie Thatcher, in which BAE would bribe members of the Saudi royal family to sell arms (as a special side deal, the bribes became a slush fund to run covert ops). In 2005, BAE started pressuring SFO to drop the investigation in the public interest, at first citing the business BAE would lose if SFO continued the investigation. Then in December 2006, Bandar flew to Britain and threatened Tony Blair that the Saudis would stop counterterrorism cooperation unless SFO dropped the investigation. Within weeks, SFO dropped the investigation.

That threat is documented this way in the paperwork describing the efforts to drop the investigation.

Similarly [REDACTION] approach to [REDACTION] via the [REDACTION] appears to have been confined to the effect on the Typhoon and Al Yamamah contract. [REDACTION] raises the prospect that Saudi co-operation on counter terrorism and the relationship on Iraq and the wider Middle East will suffer. The Cabinet Secretary has raised the possibility of harm to intelligence gathering, [REDACTION] and to multinational initiative to try to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict concluding that “if the Saudis are already starting to take such steps in relation to the Typhoon programme, then we must anticipate that they could follow though (sic) [REDACTION] in relation to counter terrorism and the bi-lateral relationship.”

But subsequent reporting of the meeting (based an investigation of SFO’s decision described the threats as even more explicit predictions of a repeat of the 7/7 Tube attack.

Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced “another 7/7” and the loss of “British lives on British streets” if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

The threat — at least as portrayed — is about withdrawing intelligence and in doing so ensuring the Brits get attacked. It’s not — as alleged in the Putin meeting — about controlling terrorists. And maybe that’s what Bandar really threatened Putin with, that he would stop sharing intelligence leading up to the Olympics.

Still, the BAE background makes it clear that Bandar does and has made such threats in the past. Which lends credence to the claim that he made some kind of similar threat here.

23 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    And then there’s the Saudis who were helped to leave the US soon after 9/11. There have been questions about that for most of the years since, and they’ve never been answered (AFAIK).

  2. JThomason says:

    One has to get pretty far down into the Al Monitor story apparently initially reported by a Lebanese news source to get to the money sentence:

    Regarding the Syrian issue, the Russian president responded to Bandar, saying, “Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters.

    Read more:

  3. Phil Perspective says:

    As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, …

    I wish I remembered where I read a version of this story but in it .. Putin basically told Bandar not to fuck with the Sochi Olympics. Basically that Putin went all Don Corleone at the Meeting of the Five Families(after Sonny’s death) on Bandar.

  4. Concerned reader says:

    I’m surprised you seem prepared to equate the highly suspect hacked email story with the ex-intel officers’ open letter. In any case, the detailed Russian forensic report on the March gas attack, blaming the rebels for a sarin incident, is the ‘best evidence’ right now on any cw deployment in the Syrian theatre and is significant both in its own right and in relation to the August attack.

    The weakest aspect of the US case for a punitive strike, in my view, is the unseemly haste required. In the interest of justice, a rush to execute a very serious sentence on the basis of hearsay and circumstance is hardly appropriate. What’s wrong with awaiting the result of a proper forensic investigation and due process (in this case via the UN) as would be expected in, say, a murder trial?

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    My outrage has informed my thought process.
    Call me naïve but I believe that Kerry and Obama have the evidence.
    We could go on for years, with conflicting stories, here-say, strategy,
    but in the end you have to decide who to believe.

    From the NY Times today

    “Germany is recognized as the first to use chemical weapons on a mass scale, on April 22, 1915, at Ypres, Belgium, where 6,000 British and French troops succumbed. Chemical weapons, rarely used since that war, have once again emerged as an issue after the massacre in Syria last month, in which the United States says nearly 1,500 people, men, women and children, were killed, many as they slept.

    As in World War I, that represents only a small fraction of the more than 100,000 lives that have been lost during the two and a half years of Syria’s civil war. Yet, President Obama is prepared to initiate a military attack in response.

    Why, it is fair to ask, does the killing of 100,000 or more with conventional weapons elicit little more than a concerned shrug, while the killing of a relative few from poison gas is enough to trigger an intervention?

    Whatever the reasons for the distinction, it has long been recognized.”

  6. JThomason says:

    @Bay State Librul: The reason is that it chemical warfare is indiscriminate. Must be nice to be able to derive certainty from the welling up of your emotions. By the way propagandist count on this kind of response.

  7. Bay State Librul says:

    There is no certainity involved. I have no fucking idea what will happen.
    Yes, as a human being I have emotions.
    I imagine many on this blog are emotionally charged and well should be, this is a huge decision..
    I ‘m just hoping the outcome will be good.

  8. JThomason says:

    @Bay State Librul: I agree its a difficult situation and my intent is not to discount your emotions but rather appeal to the rational process that I understand “citizenship” in a Constitutional Republic requires.

    It is unfortunate however that apparently the National policy has evolved to the point that it is accepted in the circles of power that it is necessary to keep others nations down in order to maintain a perceived position of supremacy. And here I am specifically referencing Iran.

  9. Frank33 says:

    Of course, if Bandar Bush actually claimed to control terrorists, then he should be in prison. But Bandar has a history, the Saudi Spymaster was controlling some terrorists through the Riggs Bank.

    It hardly matters who attacked with chemical weapons. The US Intelligence Community has supported the Al Qaeda rebels, and are responsible for the violence.

    But some former members of the Intelligence Community are visiting Conspiracy Town. They claim there is a possibility of an elaborate False Flag Op.

    Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on August 21 in a suburb of Damascus. They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal. That is the most salient fact, according to CIA officers working on the Syria issue. They tell us that CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you…

    There is a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters — providing a strong circumstantial case that the August 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters.

  10. lefty665 says:

    Saudis behind Chechen rebels, Boston bombing guy visits them. Majority Saudis in 9/11 attacks. Seems like they’re involved in 100% of the successful terrorist attacks in the US this millennium.

    When do we stop being buddies with them? Where’s the aumf to cruise missile Riyadh? A “Shot across their bow”.

  11. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Hmmm, let’s see, napalm, depleted uranium, white phosphorus. I’ve probably left out a couple. Are uranium and phosphorus not chemicals? Or do only certain chemicals on the list when the treaty was signed count? This nonsense about being concerned about the use of chemical weapons is just that – complete nonsense.

    Putin should have sent Bandar back to Saudi Arabia with a missile stuck up his ass.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @Concerned reader: I’m not necessarily equating the two. Just saying I can’t verify either of them.

    I trust a number (though not all) of the VIPS people and am thinking through their letter. BUt they jsut released it yesterday, after all.

  13. GulfCoastPirate says:

    @P J Evans: Tell that to the victims. The point is there are chemicals used by the US that may not be gases but leave a trail of death and destruction in their wake all the same. If the president was honest about this chemical warfare crap then he would be clamoring to get those types of weapons included also.

  14. What Constitution? says:

    @lefty665: Oil. Or, more precisely, lots of oil. Next question?

    Edit: to clarify by movie quote, it’s from Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School”: Dangerfield, as Thornton Mellon, donates the money for a new building in order to bribe his way into college and, when the stuffy professor objects, the Dean explains “In Mr. Melon’s defense, it was a really big check.” Same principle here, on an internationally immoral scale.

  15. jerryy says:

    @JThomason: Just out of curiosity, how discriminate are cluster bombs (with their attendant unexploded bomb-lets) and land mines? The US government refuses to stop using them.

  16. JThomason says:

    @jerryy: I wasn’t suggesting that it was sound reasoning in comparison to other weapons, I was merely suggesting what the reasoning appears to be.

  17. newz4all says:

    A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works To Build Support to Topple Assad

    Officials inside the Central Intelligence Agency knew that Saudi Arabia was serious about toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud to lead the effort.

    Iran-Contra Redux? Prince Bandar Heads Secret Saudi-CIA Effort to Aid Syrian Rebels, Topple Assad

    usa-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya

  18. Phil Perspective says:

    @GulfCoastPirate: Also, I bet those at our old hang out *cough* know more about Kristol and PNAC then a lot of lefties/progressives do on Twitter. And the interventionists do realize that Kristol is on their side, right? I wonder why Kristol might support intervention(Yes, this sentence is rhetorical)?!?

  19. notnitpicking says:

    Dear Marcy:
    …this stuff is already so convoluted, shouldn’t you correct the following:
    “Bandar offered Putin a lot of things he couldn’t deliver so long as Putin would give up on supporting Bashar al-Assad.”
    “Give up” means to surrender or relinquish… Bandar could not deliver so long as Putin would NOT give up his support of Assad.

  20. Tangaroa says:

    @notnitpicking: I think that sentence is intended to mean that Bandar could not possibly deliver on his promises regardless of whether Putin complied with his demands or not.

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