Prince Bandar bin Sultan was the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005 and a major player in U.S.-Saudi diplomacy both before and after that 22-year span. His career as a diplomatic power broker began in 1978, when the then 29-year-old fighter pilot was recruited by his royal kinsman and then Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal to help obtain U.S. congressional approval of the sale of F-15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia. Bandar moved on to enjoy perhaps unrivaled access to Washington's political elite and became an intimate of U.S. presidents (especially President George H. W. Bush). He was involved in yet another major arms sale (of AWAC surveillance planes, in 1981) and in the diplomacy surrounding both the 1991 and the 2003 U.S.-led military actions against Iraq. His fingerprints can also be found on other Middle Eastern issues, from Libya to Lebanon to Iran. Bandar was seemingly more than just the "messenger" of the three Saudi kings who have ruled since the late 1970s. There is good reason to believe that he often shaped the message. The veteran Washington Post journalist Ottaway uses Bandar's flamboyant diplomatic career to provide an informative history of U.S.-Saudi relations over the past three decades.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.