Q&A with former ambassador to Saudia Arabia on impact of Bin Laden’s death

Robert W. Jordan

In an effort to get first hand insight into the impact of the death of Osama Bin Laden, I reached out to Robert Jordan, the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Below are his answers to the questions I posed.

Robert Jordan was appointed by George W. Bush to be the ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 2001, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His efforts helped to secure Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in the War on Terror. He served in this role until 2003. Since then, he has resumed his career as at attorney at Baker Botts LLP, and is in charge of the firm’s Middle East practices.

Q: As someone who was appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia just after Sept. 11 and was deeply involved in its aftermath, what does the death of Osama Bin Laden mean to you?
A: Many brave men and women worked tirelessly to get him. It shows the patience, the resolve, and the courage of our forces that they ultimately were successful. I spent many hours with our military and intelligence leaders working with them, and they deserve a lot of credit.

Q: There has been speculation that the killing of Osama Bin Laden by American forces will lead to more American deaths in terrorist attacks. Do you believe this speculation to be accurate? Why or why not?
A: Al Qaeda is just as lethal today as yesterday. A symbol and a recruiting figure has been removed but their agenda has not changed.

Q: What impact do you believe this will have on the war on terrorism both in the short term a
nd the long term?
A: The terrorists will continue their efforts but it’s significant that the freedom movement in the Middle East has bypassed Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has been irrelevant to the relatively peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, where Al Qaeda’s ideology has played no role. The aspirations of the people do not rely on suicide bombers or killing innocent bystanders.

Q: What differences do you notice in the way that George W. Bush and Barack Obama handled the search for Osama Bin Laden?
A: Their approaches have been nearly the same, relying on our professional military and intelligence assets. We would have found Bin Laden under either leadership.

Q: Have you noticed that the death of Bin Laden has had an impact in the Middle East? What are people saying where you are?
A: There is now a sense of hopefulness that the aspirations of the people can be achieved peacefully. Most in the region are glad Bin Laden was brought to justice.

Q: Do you agree with the way the Obama administration handled the killing of Osama Bin Lad
en?
A: All reports are that they gave him a chance to surrender and tried to minimize civilian casualties. It appears to have been a textbook professional operation.

Q: What do you believe the next step should be for the Obama administration?
A: The next step is equally challenging – to counter the destructive ideology that Bin Laden preached. Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical, as it enflames the region. Assisting in economic and political development is also a key to progress.

I’ve put in a few follow up questions with him, so when he gets back to me I’ll update the post.
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