THE SPINE DECEMBER 22, 2006
This is a scoop. I didn't post when I'd heard that Prince Turki al-Faisal was being brought back from Washington to Riyadh. I should have. I knew it before anyone else. Well, not exactly. Not before the London personage who informed me. Sorry. But, if you want a very reliable explanation of why this royal has been retired so soon after arriving, you can read in a January 16 Wall Street Journal column, "Talking Turki," by the savvy Simon Henderson.
In any case, what's past is past. It's the future that counts. And here's the news. King Abdullah has passed over his dozens of aspiring nephews and even his own sons, all descendants of the founder Abdul Azziz Ibn Saud, to designate as Saudi ambassador to the United States the well, brilliant and civilized Adel Al-Jubeir. (Yes, Ibn Saud was the Saudi king you may recall photographed on the USS Quincy with FDR on his way back from Yalta.)
Now, two of the monarch's nephews have already served in the post: Prince Bandar who was, because of longevity, dean of the Washington diplomatic corps, and Prince Turki who, although head of Saudi intelligence for years, was thought unreliable. (Turki's assignment was very odd in the first place: his portfolio had included caring for Al Qaeda. Was this experience intended to give the U.S. confidence in his judgment?)
Anyway, back to Al-Jubeir. He is a commoner, extremely well-educated, analytical, at home with ideas (even odd ones) and open to understanding the life experiences of others. This appointment is actually a tribute to the king and to his grasp of the diplomacy with which his envoy will have to engage. Al-Jubeir knows America very well and he knows Americans. He also knows Jews and, my guess is, also Israelis. These relationships will be on his plate, too. They are not for the U.S. insignificant.
I hope that this confession doesn't get him in trouble at home. But whether it does or not, let me admit that I count Adel a friend. That he ushered me around Saudi Arabia, me and Mike Kinsley and Tom Tisch and a few others. And I believe that he is at once a man of peace and a person whom Americans and the American government can really trust.