Corridors of Power

Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives.

-- Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabian national security adviser, is well known in Washington, where he spent 22 years as the Saudi ambassador. When he comes to town these days -- which is often -- it is as one of the key architects of Saudi Arabia's recent emergence from publicity-shy kingdom to key player in Arab diplomacy. As an indication of its new activism, Saudi Arabia will host the annual Arab League summit in Riyadh at the end of March, having initially declined to do so when the venue was first proposed last year.

Prince Bandar is remembered with mixed feelings by the Washington diplomatic corps, of which he was officially the dean. The role goes to the longest-serving foreign ambassador, who is supposed to represent the interests of the diplomatic community with the United States government in matters related to day-to-day living. The job is not just a fancy title, as non-diplomatic problems with the host country inevitably crop up and have to be addressed. But according to Embassy Row folklore, being dean was not very high on Bandar's list of priorities, and embassies with problems were usually left to fend for themselves.

Bandar left Washington two years ago and Roble Olhaje, ambassador of the African state of Djibouti, succeeded him as dean. Some ambassadors don't think they're better off, however: Ambassador Olhaje is also his country's representative at the United Nations, resides in Manhattan and is not often in Washington.

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