Saudi Ambassador Abruptly Resigns

The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States has unexpectedly resigned, effective immediately, and headed home.

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.

Two possible explanations immediately came to mind. The first is some major scandal. The second, suggested later in the piece, is that his brother Prince Saud is dying and “Turki has increasingly been rumored as a possible replacement for his older brother.”

UPDATE: Steve Clemons offers a third possibility

Sources report that the Ambassador’s decision has come after a long bout of battles with anti-reformers in the Saudi government. Turki, according to one source, believes that these are critical times and that the kind of intrigue that others in Saudi political circles want to play is a waste of his time, energy, and beneath him.

Prince Turki, however, has been a significant “truth-teller” to the Bush administration and has been one of the key players in resurrecting the Saudi proposal on Palestine-Israel negotiations. He is the two-decade long former chief of Saudi intelligence and is considered by many in the Saudi establishment to be one of the sharpest and shrewdest among Saudi elites.

Time will tell. I agree that this would be “bad news.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

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  2. madmatt says:

    prince saud is a despotic scumbag and his death can’t come quick enough….he has been supporting radical wahabbism and by default al queada for years….but he is a bush family member so the US look the other way and attacks secular countries like Iraq!

  3. John Burgess says:

    I think the latter explanation is the more plausible. Saud doesn’t have to die, however. His health has been troubling for the past 20 years and getting worse. It may just be time for him to retire.

    I’m not sure that Turki Al-Faisal has a lock on the job, but he’s certainly qualified for it.

    MadMatt can’t keep his Saudis straight. He’s talking about “Bandar Bush”, the former Saudi ambassador who did his job (representing Saudi interests in the US) very well for 22 years. Would that American ambassadors worked so well for their national interest. But it’s a little hard to do when they’re changing jobs every four to eight years.

    Saud became foreign minister in 1975, back when Ford was President. As he was one of the chief engineers of the 1973 oil boycott (he was deputy minister of petroleum and mineral resources at the time), he’s unlikely to be a friend of any American oil businessman. He represents Saudi interests and doesn’t have to be particularly friendly toward any American politicians.

  4. madmatt says:

    I am well aware of bandar and as ambassador who would he take his marching orders from? And he has always been cozy with US oil interests..they are both looking for higher prices.

  5. daveinboca says:

    His brother Saud doesn’t want the job any more and has summoned his younger brother to lobby for the Foreign Minister post.

    Any more than that is baseless speculation at the moment.

  6. John Burgess says:

    Another point of view–this one from a Saudi American–is that Turki is paying for the overstepping op-ed by his protegé, Nawaf Obeid. See Prince Turki Abruptly Resigns at Rasheed’s World.

    I don’t think that’s the case, but it’s another light shining on the question.