Profile: Adel al-Jubeir, the new face of Saudi diplomacy

Profile: Adel al-Jubeir, the new face of Saudi diplomacy
The Saudi ambassador to Washington has been appointed Foreign Minister by King Salman on Wednesday replacing the veteran diplomat, Saudi al-Faisal.
3 min read
29 April, 2015
Adel Jubeir replaces Saud al-Faisal, formerly the world’s longest-serving foreign minister (AFP)
The Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, announced through a decree from the royal court, a major reshuffle in the cabinet and the line of succession.

As part of the reshuffle, Adel al-Jubeir, the 53-year old Saudi Ambassador to the US, replaces Saudi al-Faisal, formerly the world's longest-serving foreign minister.

Al-Jubeir is not a member of the ruling al-Saud family. He is the second non-royal ever to be appointed as foreign minister of the Saudi Kingdom.

Who is al-Jubeir? How did he make it to such a high position?

Early years

The young diplomat was educated in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Germany, Lebanon, and the US. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in political science and economics from University of North Texas, followed by a Masters degree in international relations from Georgetown University in 1984. 

Al-Jubeir joined the kingdom's diplomatic service in 1987. He served as special assitant to then Saudi Ambassador to US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

His first appearance as a spokesman for the Saudi government was in 1991, during the first Gulf War. Then, he was part of the GCC delegation to Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

He was sent back and forth in diplomatic missions and posts in Saudi Arabia and US.

In 2000, he served briefly as director of the Saudi Information Office at the embassy in Washington - a position now held by his brother, Nael.

He then officially became an adviser to late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

Following 9/11 attacks, al-Jubeir was sent back to Washington to help the kingdom overcome a PR battle, and reaffirm Saudi Arabia as an anti-terror ally after it became clear that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian.

During his tenure at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, al-Jubeir proved to be a charismatic and witty diplomat.

He befriended numerous high-profile American lobbyists and politicians in Capitol Hill, and built strong ties with think tanks and media figures.

His fluency in German and his unaccented American English gave him an edge over other diplomats in the Saudi Embassy.

The low-key diplomat gained the trust of the royal family on one hand and the American establishment on the other through confident appearances in American media and in political circles.

His ability to represent the monarchy and his chair at Abdullah’s side during virtually every high-level contact with world powers have given him a stature a few diplomats can match.
The royal family, especially ex-Saudi Ambassador to the US Bandar bin Sultan, knew that it was a matter of time before al-Jubeir saves the face of an aging ruling class as tension rises with regional rival, Iran.

Al-Jubeir was appointed by royal decree as Saudi Ambassador to the US with the rank of Minister in early 2007.

In 2011, the Saudi Ambassador survived an assassination attempt allegedly carried out by Iran's Quds Force-backed agents.

Challenges ahead

The fresh Saudi Foreign Minister has little time to celebrate his new position.

Al-Jubeir enters office with a daunting war in Yemen, proving to be a critical battle for Saudi Arabia.

He is also facing significant security threats as IS proves it can hit the Saudis in their homeland.

Al-Jubeir is also expected to keep up with the ongoing developments in Syria and Turkish-Saudi talks, as Generva III approaches.