When 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks turned out to be Saudi Arabian nationals, Adel al-Jubeir switched into overdrive to spread Saudi Arabia’s message of friendship with the United States. First as the U.S. spokesman for Saudi Arabia and, since 2007, as the ambassador to the United States, Jubeir has spent most of the past two decades working to strengthen the bonds between the two nations.
Now the bonds may have grown even tighter, after the U.S. government foiled an elaborate assassination plot aimed at the Saudi ambassador.
It’s not yet known why Jubeir was targeted, but in a news conference Tuesday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder said it was “a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador on U.S. soil with explosives.”
One of the suspects, Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old from Austin, was arrested in New York last month and will stand trial. The other suspect, Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Quds Force, a paramilitary division of that country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, remains at large.
Jubeir, 49, is a well-known figure in Washington thanks to his roll as the public face for the Saudi kingdom. He first came to Washington in 1987 with the Saudi Diplomatic Service and appeared as a spokesman for the Saudi government during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
He became an adviser on foreign affairs to King Abdullah in 2005, and is considered a close confidante of the royal family. In 2007, he presented his credentials as ambassador to then President George W. Bush.
A Time magazine article in 2002 described him in the spotlight as slight, soft-spoken and plaintive, but determined. His appointment to ambassadorship was described as “a meteoric rise in Saudi diplomacy,” by the Washington Post.
He also had a brush with another type of celebrity. His relationship with former NBC news anchor Campbell Brown became fodder for the Beltway gossip columnists in the early 2000s.
Jubeir obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from the University of North Texas in 1982 and a master’s in international relations from Georgetown University in 1984.