Book Release: Former Saudi Ambassador Robert W. Jordan published a new book Desert Diplomat on Saudi Arabia after 9/11. An inside look at US-Saudi diplomacy at a crucial time in American history
In the spring of 2001 George W. Bush selected Dallas attorney Robert W. Jordan as the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. After the attacks of 9/11 Jordan’s nomination sped through the Senate and he was at his post by mid October.
Jordan’s riveting, deeply personal account of arriving in Saudi Arabia with no diplomatic experience opens the door on the inner workings of Middle East diplomacy during the Bush Administration.
As the Saudis insist that the U.S. ambassador be a political appointee with close ties to the president, Jordan used his legal skills and his wits to manage a key relationship at its most critical time. He is a great storyteller, mixing vivid detail, humor, empathy and biting criticism. His efforts at fighting terrorism, extremism, and stereotypes on both sides of the relationship provide a rare glimpse into the life of a diplomat in a time of crisis.
Presidential summit meetings, emotional conversations with senior diplomats and military leaders, dysfunctional turf battles in Washington and Riyadh, prisoner swaps, religious persecution, fighting to see crucial documents and intelligence, bombing attacks on westerners, and the buildup to the invasion of Iraq figure prominently in this roller coaster ride.
“Desert Diplomat tells the story of a critical relationship at a critical time, and how a great diplomat, Robert Jordan, can turn the hinge of history. We are at another turn – may we be as wise as he was in making it.” Ryan C. Crocker, Dean, George Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“Robert Jordan has written a fascinating and insightful book that provides a rare inside view of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East during the events that followed 9/11…. Desert Diplomat should be required reading for all those involved in developing our strategy and policy for the Middle East.” General Anthony C. Zinni (USMC, Ret.), former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command and former special envoy to the Middle East.
Desert Diplomat is a memoir by the man who served as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003. It’s about his tenure during that critical period and his observations on the region today.
Some interesting facts:
The United States actually didn’t have an ambassador at time of 9/11, as Mr. Jordan had been nominated but had been told hearings wouldn’t take place for several months, and Clinton’s ambassador had already departed. Jordan had plans to learn Arabic, was getting some instruction on the region and how to run an embassy (charm school, etc) and then everything was expedited on 9/11.
When Jordan arrived in Saudi Arabia in early October when we knew bin laden, a Saudi was behind it, 15 of 19 hijackers were Saudi, the Saudis were suggesting Israel had done it. His first assignment was to go with Tommy Franks to see Crown Prince and get his blessing for continued use of air bases for bombing in Ramadan. After President George W. Bush made him hyperventilate with news that he was fixing to do a regime change in Iraq, Jordan was our point man with the Saudis on the war effort.
Desert Diplomat is all the more interesting because Ambassador Jordan had no diplomatic experience, that Saudi Arabia doesn’t want a career diplomat, it wants someone who has president’s ear. Ambassador Jordan was obviously a very smart guy but with no experience in diplomatic relations when he accepted the position before 9/11, and had no idea he would be going to what Secretary of State James A. Baker said, was hottest spot after Pakistan.<
Jordan was interested and had expressed interest in doing some kind of government service for a bit—for example: being White House counsel, Sec of Navy but those positions were taken; he didn’t see eye to eye with Ashcroft at Justice, so gave up idea of service. Initially he turned down the ambassadorship, but reconsidered when his son said that if the president asks you to serve country, you serve… this in addition to his own father’s history.
This is a story of an accidental ambassador sent––before he had even been given all his instructions––to the hot spot that gave us bin laden and the hijackers and was suspected of funding terrorists; and how Jordan used your skills and knowledge to quickly get up to speed and represent our country for 2 years on the terrorism front, war front, negotiating release hostages, and political hostages. In addition to how he pressed for human rights changes with WTO carrot, learned culture.
Saudi Arabia continues to be in the news every day now and the book is instructive in gaining understanding of politics, policy, and culture today.
DESERT DIPLOMAT: INSIDE SAUDI ARABIA FOLLOWING 9/11
By Robert W. Jordan With Steve Fiffer
Foreword by James A. Baker III