The Justice Department unsealed a five-count criminal complaint Tuesday alleging Iran Qods force-backed agents plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States and possibly bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.
Riyadh's envoy to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir, is the hand-picked, trusted envoy of the oil-rich monarchy's King Abdullah.
A non-royal, Al-Jubeir, 49, previously served as the Saudi embassy's congressional liaison and head of the information office (his brother currently serves that role). Educated in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Germany, Lebanon and the United States, Al-Jubeir earned his masters degree from Georgetown University. He joined Saudi Arabia's diplomatic service in 1987. He was appointed Riyadh's envoy to Washington in 2007.
The Envoy reported last month that Al-Jubeir personally brought a secret letter from King Abdullah from Saudi Arabia to President Obama at the White House in September. He then left almost immediately for Saudi Arabia again. The White House and Saudi embassy did not disclose what the subject of the correspondence involved.
Washington Middle East experts say Al-Jubeir has appeared to be traveling for much of this fall--either that, or they feared, that he was simply avoiding them.
Sectarian tensions between Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran have been growing in recent months, exacerbated by competition for influence amid the recent Arab Spring uprisings, and acute Saudi fears about Iran's nuclear program. These tensions have become heightened as Saudi leaders have struggled with their own anxieties over unrest in Sunni-ruled ally Bahrain, and concerns that Iran could increase its regional sway amid ongoing unrest in Syria, the planned U.S. drawdown from Iraq, and throughout the region.