Saudi Arabia Set to Name Jubeir as Ambassador

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saudi Arabia has informed the State Department that it intends to appoint Adel al-Jubeir as the new ambassador to Washington, according to U.S. officials. Jubeir, who is one of King Abdullah's closest foreign policy advisers, has long been the public face of the oil-rich kingdom in the West.

Jubeir is a well-known figure in Washington who was put out front by the kingdom in an effort to dissociate the Saudi royal family from the Islamic extremism of al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Saudi militant Osama bin Laden. He has often had to defend against tough criticism of one of the world's most autocratic governments.

On CNN "Late Edition" last year, Jubeir disputed reports that bin Laden is still widely popular in the kingdom. "You can talk to radicals in Europe and they'll tell you that their agenda is very popular with the masses when, in fact, it's not," he said. "If Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia were popular, we would see an increase in recruitment, not a decrease. We would see an increase in their ability to do damage, not a decrease. . . . We are winning the war on terrorism. It will take time, though."

In 2004, when then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said that "Zionist hands" were "95 percent" behind recent terrorist attacks, Jubeir was again dispatched to defuse criticism in the United States. U.S. officials linked al-Qaeda sympathizers with the incidents.

"Bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi government," Jubeir said, again on CNN. "So you should understand . . . that those who are most critical of Saudi Arabia in a very hostile way in the United States, as well as in Israel, share the same objective as Osama bin Laden and those who committed these acts."

The impending appointment represents a meteoric rise in Saudi diplomacy for a man who last served in Washington as special assistant to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, now the Saudi national security adviser. Jubeir will step in to replace Prince Turki al-Faisal, who quit this month after only 15 months on the job.

The highly sensitive appointment has been shrouded in secrecy. The typed letter delivered to the State Department Friday left blank the name of the ambassador-designate, which was written in by the Saudi envoy shortly before he delivered it, according to well-informed sources who requested anonymity because no announcement has been made.

Jubeir, 44, attended the University of North Texas and Georgetown University. Bandar plucked him from graduate school to help him at the Saudi embassy. He once was featured in U.S. gossip columns for dating NBC news anchor Campbell Brown.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company