Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gossip: Prince Turki Calls It Quits (Updated)

According to a single knowledgeable source, Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Turki al-Faisal has resigned his post. Apparently, this development had been in the making since last October. Now, I’d like to think that Talisman Gate’s incessant needling of Prince Turki made him suddenly flee town (here, here, hear, hear, and here) but he doesn’t seem to have left under a cloud; in fact he’s probably getting promoted to Foreign Minister in lieu of his very ill full-brother, Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Or maybe the 'gaffe' by his protégé, Nawaf Obeid, was too much strain on his bearing...

UPDATE (11:15 PM): CONFIRMED: Tomorrow's Financial Times (Dammit! I had it at 7:24 PM EST!):

Saudi envoy to US setto step down

By Stephen Fidler and Roula Khalaf in London
Published: December 12
2006 02:00 Last updated: December 12 2006 02:00

Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, is set to step down only a year after he took up the position.

People close to the
Saudi government said an announcement of his departure was expected shortly and
would depict the move as being at Prince Turki's request. They said his decision
was related to Saudi domestic matters and not directly connected to Saudi-US
relations, but declined to elaborate further.
However, analysts said his
resignation raised questions about possible disagreements between Prince Turki,
a former head of Saudi intelligence and ambassador to London, and Riyadh over
regional and international policy.
The move comes amid an internal debate
about how the kingdom, whose official creed is an austere form of Sunni Islam,
should support the Sunni minority population in Iraq, which is seen as
threatened by the ascendancy of Shia militias.
Prince Turki's departure had
been rumoured for some time and was not, it appeared, a direct consequence of a
controversial article about Iraq written by one of his advisers last
month.
In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on November 29,
Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security expert and adviser to Prince Turki, said the Saudi
government was preparing to revise its Iraq policy in the face of a possible US
withdrawal from the country.
Options included, Mr Obaid said, providing Sunni
insurgent leaders with arms and finance, establishing new Sunni brigades to
combat Iranian militias and strangling Iranian funding by engineering a cut in
oil prices, which would hit Tehran far harder than Riyadh.
Mr Obaid said he
was expressing a personal opinion. However, after the article appeared, Prince
Turki said that Mr Obaid's agreement as a consultant had been terminated in
order to emphasise his independence from the Saudi government.
In a statement
reported by Reuters yesterday, 38 prominent Saudi clerics called for action to
support Iraq's Sunni population, who it said were being murdered and
marginalised by the Shia, supported by Iran and by US forces.
"We direct this
message to all concerned about Shi'ites in the world: the murder, torture and
displacement of Sunnis. . . is an outrage," said the statement, signed by 38
leading clerics and preachers, including Abdel-Rahman al-Barrak, Safar al-Hawali
and Nasser al-Omar.
"Muslims must stand directly with our Sunni brothers in
Iraq and support them by all appropriate, well-studied means," it
said.
Prince Turki's predecessor in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan,
stayed in the post for more than two decades.
The Financial Times Limited 2006

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