Diplomatic Briefing

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Commentary: The Saudi Ambassador of Sangfroid

There were women who lost their heads over Adel al-Jubeir, back when the Saudi ambassador was a charming playboy. Given that his father was a diplomat too – one of the first Saudis to have a college degree – maybe the 49-year-old’s equanimity is in his genes. He is far more understated than his flamboyant predecessor, Prince Bandar, who was so plugged into the Bush dynasty he was known as “Bandar Bush.” Jubeir stayed cool even when American officials informed him several months ago about the latest stunning chapter in theSaudi Arabia-versus-IranGreat Game for supremacy in theMiddle East: an outlandish plot by an Iranian-American used-car dealer inTexaswho said his cousin was a senior member of the Iranian Quds Force. As evidence mounted of money transfers and taped conversations, Jubeir accepted that, as President Obama said, the plot was “paid by and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.”Irandenies that, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Fareed Zakaria: “Do we really need to kill the ambassador of a brotherly country?”  “It went from ‘I can’t believe this,’ ” the ambassador said with a dry smile, “to ‘Man, these guys really know how to ruin a man’s day.’ ” He had to force himself to live a normal existence for months, not telling family or staff, until a criminal complaint was unveiled and theTexascar dealer was before a judge. Gathering his shaken staff in the embassy, he said: “Nothing befalls us except that which God has written for us. If anything, it should reinforce our resolve. Otherwise the bad guys win.” He got a standing ovation. His family was “shocked” and his frightened twin 9-year-old daughters called his office to grill him. He reassured them that there was “a bad guy but no danger.” Still, they pressed: “O.K., when are you coming home?”‘ I asked if he thought he was targeted because of his tough position onIran, underscored in a 2008 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks quoting him reiterating that King Abdullah wanted theU.S.to “cut off the head of the snake.” “You should ask the perpetrators, not me,” he said wryly. “We do what we have to do, and we can’t let issues like this deter us.”



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