Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11

Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11

Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11

Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11

Synopsis

In the spring of 2001, George W. Bush selected Dallas attorney Robert W. Jordan as the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Jordan's nomination sped through Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and he was at his post by early October, though with no prior diplomatic experience, as Saudi Arabia mandates that the U.S. Ambassador be a political appointee with the ear of the president. Hence Jordan had to learn on the job how to run an embassy, deal with a foreign culture, and protect U.S. interests, all following the most significant terrorist attacks on the United States in history.

From 2001 through 2003, Jordan worked closely with Crown Prince Abdullah and other Saudi leaders on sensitive issues of terrorism and human rights, all the while trying to maintain a positive relationship to ensure their cooperation with the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. At the same time he worked with top officials in Washington, including President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks. Desert Diplomat discusses these relationships as well as the historic decisions of Jordan's tenure and provides a candid and thoughtful assessment of the sometimes distressing dysfunction in the conduct of American foreign policy, warfare, and intelligence gathering. Still involved in the Middle East, Jordan also offers important insights into the political, economic, and social changes occurring in this critical region, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Excerpt

Ambassadors are the Swiss Army knives of America’s diplomatic ranks. They are multitools—part diplomat, part analyst, and part politician. And, yes, from time to time, they are part spy. They must display the skills and characteristics required to confront challenging tasks, often during trying times. They must have voracious appetites for information yet be discrete when sharing it. They must be as equally charming as they are tough. Above all, they must be smart. An ambassador, as the U.S. Diplomacy Center defines it, is the president’s highest-ranking representative to a specific nation or international organization abroad. They must act accordingly.

The day following the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, President George W. Bush selected exactly the right man when he formally nominated Robert W. Jordan to became the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Jordan had already gone through a background check. But by September 12, a lot more was riding on the appointment. America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia would face inevitable strains amid backlash at the Islamic extremists responsible for the terrible bombings that shook the world. Osama bin Laden, after all, was a member of the House of Saud. Having a cool hand in Riyadh would be critical if the United States were to maintain Saudi Arabia as a close ally in this important part of the world. As events in the Middle East unfolded dur-

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