Adel al-Jubeir is kingdom’s new foreign minister

Friday 01/05/2015
Skilled diplomat

Saudi Arabia’s new foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir , is a US-educated connois­seur of Washington’s dip­lomatic scene, a longtime adviser to the kingdom’s rulers and an articulate spokesman for his country’s new assertive approach to the Middle East’s growing con­flicts.

A well-known figure in Wash­ington government circles and on US television, Jubeir becomes the first non-royal in the job, suc­ceeding Saud al-Faisal, who served for four decades and has been ap­pointed a special envoy of King Salman.

Jubeir, 53, is not only a promi­nent public face of Saudi diploma­cy, but also an insider in Riyadh.

As ambassador to Washington, he translated for former King Ab­dullah in meetings with US Presi­dent Barack Obama and travelled to the kingdom regularly to brief the king in person.

So important are Jubeir’s pres­entation skills to a conservative dynasty not always at ease with public messaging, that it was he who announced the launch of an air campaign by a Saudi-led coali­tion against Iranian-allied Houthi militia forces in Yemen.

He couched the initiative in terms of checking Iranian influ­ence in a country that Riyadh con­siders its backyard.

“We see … Iran playing a large role in supporting the Houthis,” Jubeir said at an embassy briefing.

Iran denies giving military back­ing to the Houthis, but Riyadh’s unprecedented action in assem­bling a coalition to bomb them shows how seriously it takes what it sees as a threat from Iran and how much more assertive its for­eign policy has grown.

In a March 26th interview with CNN, Jubeir said: “Everybody wants a peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear programme, but it has to be a serious and solid agreement that is verifiable. We’re also just as concerned about the interference by Iran in the affairs of other coun­tries in the region, whether it’s Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and other parts.”

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity and denies meddling in the affairs of countries of the region.

An earlier moment of promi­nence for Jubeir came in 2011 when the United States accused two Ira­nians of plotting to hire a hit man to kill him with a bomb planted in a restaurant. Iran denied any part in the alleged plot. Mahmoud Ah­madinejad, then the Iranian presi­dent, said the incident was fabri­cated by Washington to cause a rift between Tehran and Saudi Arabia.

But in 2013 an Iranian-born used car salesman from Texas was sentenced to 25 years in prison af­ter admitting to participating in a plot with an Iranian military unit to assassinate Jubeir.

Jubeir was appointed an ad­viser to the royal court in 2005 and named ambassador to Washington in 2007 when he succeeded Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi in­telligence chief.

A few years earlier, Jubeir was designated by the kingdom to lead a public effort to dissociate the royal family from the Islam­ist militancy of al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Fifteen of the 19 militants who carried out those at­tacks were Saudis.

Fluent in Arabic, English and German, Jubeir earned a bache­lor’s degree in political science and economics from the University of North Texas in 1982 and a master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown in 1984.