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.”