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Jubayr, Adil al- (1962–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE, LEGACY, CONTEMPORARIES

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A Saudi Arabian spokesperson and diplomat, Adil al-Jubayr (also Adel al-Jubeir) became ambassador to the United States in 2007.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Al-Jubayr was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1962 to a family involved in diplomacy and government. An uncle, Shaykh Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Jubayr, served as minister of justice and became the first head of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council (Majlis al-Shura), an appointed, consultative body established in 1992. Because al-Jubayr’s father was a diplomat, the family traveled frequently throughout Adil’s formative years, when his father was posted to, among other places, Germany, Yemen, and Lebanon.

In 1978, Adil al-Jubayr, together with his mother and siblings, had been living in Lebanon while his father served at a diplomatic post in Yemen. According to associates to whom he has told the story, one of the reasons for his wanting to remain in Lebanon for as long as possible was that, after having spent such an extended period in non-Arabic-speaking countries, he wanted to regain his fluency in Arabic. When the family was on vacation in the United States that year, violence escalated among Lebanese political factions vying for position and influence. Later that same year, the Israel Defense Forces bombed Beirut in retaliation for attacks by Lebanon-based Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters against sites in northern Israel. Owing to the deteriorating security situation in Lebanon and the lack of American universities in Yemen, the family decided to remain in the United States. A friend helped Adil and an older sister, who had been enrolled at the American University in Beirut, to find places at the University of North Texas in Denton, where Adil enrolled at the age of sixteen.

Al-Jubayr graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Texas in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. He went on to earn a master’s degree in political science and international relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1984. He entered Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic corps in 1986 and served as special assistant to the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz Al Sa’ud, for the next thirteen years.

In 1999, al-Jubayr was appointed director of the Saudi Arabian Information Office in Washington, D.C. In that position, he gained valuable experience in liaising with the representatives of almost all mainstream American satellite television, newspaper, radio, and other media networks, as well as members and select staff of the U.S. Congress. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed foreign affairs adviser to then-Saudi Arabian crown prince, second deputy prime minister, and national guard commander ABDULLAH BIN ABD AL-AZIZ AL-SA’UD , half-brother to then-King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz Al Sa’ud. After King Fahd suffered a stroke in November 1985, Prince Abdullah served as de facto head of the Saudi Arabian government until the passing of King Fahd in August 2005 when Abdullah succeeded him as king. Having won Abdullah’s confidence, al-Jubayr proceeded to play a progressively prominent role in presenting and defending the kingdom’s foreign policies to visiting delegations of leaders as well as media representatives from largely Western countries. Al-Jubayr would become increasingly well known to the Western world and to Americans in particular, primarily through his public diplomacy efforts. He frequently appeared on American talk shows and interview programs, explaining and defending Saudi Arabia’s policies and actions.

The position of serving as a major public window on Saudi Arabia’s position and roles in international affairs became critically important after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States in which it was revealed that fifteen of the nineteen Arabs who hijacked four American airliners were Saudi Arabian citizens. The U.S. political response to these attacks was at once emotional and political, prompting many to examine the merits of the overall relationship between Riyadh and Washington. What followed was a pervasive American national media blitz that relentlessly attacked the kingdom’s culture, religion, foreign policies, and system of governance, and called into question the wisdom of the United States continuing to view and relate to the country as a partner and ally. Al-Jubayr played a key role in the kingdom’s response to these attacks, attempting to project the kingdom’s perspective to key public and private sector audiences in the United States at every available opportunity.

To these ends, al-Jubayr was instrumental in the establishment of Saudi Arabia-centric activities associated with Qorvis, a private public relations company in Washington, D.C. The firm rapidly proceeded to mount major public affairs campaigns at the national, state, and local levels in numerous American media markets. The campaign was designed to convey little known positive facts related to Saudi Arabia’s multifaceted positive contributions to international affairs in general and its relationship with the United States in particular. In 2002, the firm produced a series of public affairs advertisements that appeared on select American television stations in support of Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace proposal to Israel of 31 March 2002, which was unanimously endorsed by all twenty-two members of the League of Arab States.

Al-Jubayr is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent spokesmen to Western and especially American media. Shortly after the resignation of Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Prince Turki bin Faysal Al Sa’ud on 11 December 2006, al-Jubayr was appointed ambassador to Washington. He presented his credentials to U.S. president George W. Bush in February 2007.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Adil al-Jubayr (Adel al-Jubeir)

Birth: 1962, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Nationality: Saudi Arabian

Education: B.S. (political science and economics), University of North Texas, 1982; M.A. (political science), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 1984

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1986: Enters Saudi diplomatic corps
  • 1999: Director, Saudi Arabian Information Office in Washington, D.C.
  • 2007: Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Washington

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, al-Jubayr was a widely known and respected professional within the U.S. capital. However, his prominence in the American national media skyrocketed following the attacks of 11 September 2001, when he became a leading figure in Saudi Arabia’s concerted actions to persuade a skeptical U.S. public that the kingdom was a reliable ally, a committed partner in the campaign against terrorism, and, indeed, on 13 May 2003 as well as earlier and subsequently, was a victim of extremist violence itself. At a time when the American media and public opinion generally were sharply focused on the fact that a majority of the nineteen men who carried out the attacks were Saudi Arabian citizens, al-Jubayr faced the demanding task of rehabilitating the kingdom’s image in the United States.

Through numerous appearances on American television talk shows, al-Jubayr reiterated repeatedly the message that Saudi Arabia acknowledged shortcomings in its earlier efforts to prevent or curb extremist acts and attitudes by its citizens at home and abroad. He would then always quickly also stress that the government in Riyadh was doing everything in its power to cooperate with U.S. authorities in combating violence. Not all Americans were persuaded, but most foreign affairs specialists agreed on al-Jubayr’s considerable skill at handling the press.

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

On an online Public Broadcasting System News Hour with Jim Lehrer broadcast, Larry Johnson, a former deputy director of the U.S. Department of State’s office of counter-terrorism, sitting across from al-Jubayr, said, “[Y]ou have to understand this is the Michael Jordan of Saudi Arabian diplomacy” (Johnson, 2001). The reference likened him, not without reason, to an unsurpassed practitioner of the art of repeatedly succeeding in the often exceptionally difficult task of making his government’s policies, positions, attitudes, and actions seem eminently plausible, reasonable, moderate, and a model of prudence and efficacy as far as statecraft is concerned.

LEGACY

In the eyes of adversaries and admirers alike, al-Jubayr has long been acknowledged as ambitious and effective. His ability to stay on message throughout interviews and press conferences is respected. He has become an important player in Saudi Arabia-U.S. relations for his role in asserting the benefits of that relationship and the arguments for its continuation. Since assuming the post of ambassador to the United States in February 2007, al-Jubayr has focused on the long-term effort to place the institutional dimensions of the bilateral Saudi Arabia relationship on a firmer foundation. He has continued to explain to the American public the kingdom’s ongoing efforts to deter threats to regional order as well as promote global economic growth through responsible positions relating to energy production, pricing, the enhancement of fuel efficiencies, and the mutual benefits derived from the establishment in Riyadh at Saudi Arabia’s own expense of an international center joining representatives of all the world’s major oil producing and consuming countries in a first-ever effort to facilitate continuous information sharing and consultation on international energy issues among the parties most concerned. He has also continued to serve as a voice of reason and moderation regarding Saudi Arabia’s constant effort to formulate and administer policies and actions that enhance the prospects for regional peace and stability.

Al-Jubayr’s task of projecting and protecting Saudi Arabia’s interests, image, and special relationship with the United States has remained likened to a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he has been required to deal continuously with his country’s many detractors. These, in the United States and elsewhere, have persistently viewed not only Saudi Arabia itself but equally, if not more so, the relationship between Riyadh and Washington, with a degree of hostility that, in the eyes of many, constitutes little more than extreme jealousy and resentment. As a result, he has had little choice but to contend with the kingdom’s adversaries, in pursuit of their own interests, having incessantly worked to misrepresent what the kingdom is and does.

CONTEMPORARIES

Among other Arab spokesmen who have held similar positions representing a monarch to foreign media in the West have been three Jordanians, former Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal, Adnan Odeh, and MARWAN MUASHER , who performed such services for the late King HUSSEIN BIN TALAL of Jordan; two Egyptians, Muhammad al-Zayyat and Muhammad Hakki, who did the same for former Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat; three League of Arab States representatives, AMR MOUSSA , Husayn Hasuna, and Clovis Maksoud; four Palestinians, HANAN MIKHA’IL ASHRAWI , Afif Safieh, Nasser al-Kidwa, and the late Fayez al-Sayigh; and several Saudi Arabians, Prince Sa’ud bin Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz Al Sa’ud, Prince Turki bin Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz Al Sa’ud, and Ghazi Algosaibi.

On the other hand, al-Jubayr’s efforts have been strengthened by his and others knowing that many governments would readily trade places with either the United States or Saudi Arabia were there an opportunity to do so. They would do so for reasons that, as many have long argued, are eminently understandable: namely, the hope of replicating for themselves the unparalleled benefits that Americans, Saudi Arabians, and countless others have derived from the relationship over the course of nearly seven decades.

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