As the US weighs military action in Syria, the Saudis have put one of the Arab world's canniest geopolitical operators in charge of their attempts to oust Bashar al-Assad, the Wall Street Journal finds. Prince Bandar bin Sultan—the kingdom's current intelligence chief and its ambassador to the US from 1983 until 2005—helped the CIA arm Afghan rebels in the '80s and is now helping funnel money and arms to Syrian rebels, while other influential Saudis lobby for more US involvement.
Sources say Bandar has spearheaded Saudi Arabia's new strategy to aid the rebels from bases in Jordan instead of Turkey, and the CIA is now helping train handpicked rebels at a base in Jordan—something the Jordanian government firmly denies. According to Arab diplomats, the prince visited key Assad ally Vladimir Putin last month and warned him that Saudi Arabia was willing to spend as much as it takes for the side it supports to win—just like when it funded anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan. Bandar is also highly regarded among US officials because of a personal story that is, as the Journal puts it, "so American." His mother was a commoner, and he worked up through the royal ranks to become a heavyweight. He was also educated in America, and owns a personal jet painted in Dallas Cowboys colors. (More Bashar al-Assad stories.)