U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

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The U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia is the head of the U.S. Mission to Saudi Arabia. When U.S. military forces, not directly attached to the Embassy, have been in the Kingdom, they generally do not report to the Ambassador as had been the case in the Vietnam War, but are subordinate to United States Central Command.

In June, James Smith, brigadier general, retired, United States Air Force, was nominated as the new Ambassador.[1]


This list begins with the first diplomats accredited as full Ambassadors, rather than at a lower political rank. The Ambassadorship has been vacant at times, but charges d'affaires ad interim are not included.

Name Dates Notes
J. Rives Childs 1949-1950 Career
Raymond Hare 1950-1953 Career
George Wadsworth 1953-1958 Career
Donald Heath 1958-1961 Career
Parker Hart 1961-1965 Career
Hermann F. Eilts 1966-1970 Career
Nicholas Thacher 1970-1973 Career
James Akins 1973-1975 Career
William J. Porter 1975-1977 Career
John West 1977-1981 Political
Richard Murphy 1981-1983 Career
Walter Cutler 1984-1987 Career
Chas Freeman 1987-1992 Career
Ray Mabus 1994-1996 Political
Wyche Fowler 1996-2001 Political
Robert Jordan 2002-2003 Political
James Oberwetter 2004-2007 Political
Ford Fraker 2007-2009 Political
James Smith 2009- Political


There have been allegations of conflict of interest after service, joining interest groups with Saudi funding.[2]

In 2003, Ambassador Robert Jordan left after 16 months, officially for personal reasons, but there were reports he displeased the Saudi government. He made three public or semi-public statements of concern: [3]

  • Following a May 12, 2003 bombing of expatriate housing in Riyadh, he told CBS News and the New York Times that requests for additional security had been ignored, praising Crown Prince Abdullah and Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and indirectly criticizing Interior Minister Prince Nayef
  • In a September 15, 2003 Time magazine story, he was quoted, in response to Prince Saud al-Faisal's statement on terrorist funding: "The money aspect is now completely controlled, and your government knows it" with the remark "It is sort of like trying to stamp out crabgrass. As soon as you stamp one [funding organization] out, something springs up somewhere else under a different name."
  • On July 9, the London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, which has an anti-Saudi editorial policy, said Jordan had voiced opinions about the Saudi succession at a dinner party, which implied that Princes Sultan and Nayef should be bypassed. He was also reported to have said his remarks "had been taken out of context, had been of a personal nature and were not an attempt to send a message from the U.S. government."

Former Ambassador Chas Freeman (1989-1992) resigned his recent appointment as incoming chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He was president of the Middle East Policy Council, which received funding from the Saudi government, and was on the international board of advisers to a Chinese-government owned oil company. Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, concerned about conflict of interest. Freeman had also been critical of Israel.[4]

Ford Fraker, the immediate past Ambassador to the Kingdom, who extended his term, to ease transition, at the request of the Obama Administration, has been hired by the private equity firm firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.. He was appointed to the ambassadorship after he had left the management committee of Saudi International Bank, having worked there for many years, to form his own company. The Wall Street Journal said KKR hired him to build its business in the Middle East. [5]