Deborah K. Jones
The Gifted American Ambassador of Public Diplomacy

By The Ambassadors Research Foundation


During a time of strife, conflict and hostility between the United States and much of the Middle East and Arab world, there is an increased incentive for public diplomacy. These are some of the most difficult times which cause the greatest strain between the two societies. For this reason, Deborah K Jones, the new American Ambassador to the Gulf Emirate of Kuwait has an uphill task ahead of her. However, she seems to have made a major impact in the short period she has served in this capacity. Kuwaiti people have opened their hearts, minds and homes to her in a distinctive and exceptional fashion. She hopes that these connections will strengthen the ties between the two states and their peoples.

Jones is a skilled orator who speaks Spanish and French, and has developed a fluency in Arabic which has made her capable of communicating and reaching all strata in her assignments around the Arab world, including most recently her mission in Kuwait.

Her Service Career

Ambassador Deborah K. Jones is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a B.S. in history (magna cum laude) and a distinguished graduate of the National War College of the National Defence University with an M.S. in national security strategy.  She is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, having been with the Department of State since 1982. Prior to her new assignment as Ambassador, she served as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey.  Her previous overseas assignments include: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Baghdad, Iraq; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Damascus, Syria.  Her service in Washington, D.C. includes two years as Country Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs in addition to assignments as Staff Assistant to Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asia Affairs Richard Murphy, Acting Public Affairs Advisor to Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, Desk Officer for Jordan, and duty in the Departmentís Operations Center.  Ms. Jones has also served on the Board of Examiners for the Foreign Service. She is one of the experts in the field of "peaceful diplomacy". Amb Jones is married to U.S. Foreign Service Officer Richard G. Olson, who is currently serving as the Deputy Permanent Representative to U.S. Mission NATO.  They have two daughters.

Amb. Jones with Mr. Saad bin_Tifla at his diwaniya

Amb. Jones enjoying an Arabian
coffee at the bin-Tifla diwaniya

Strengthening Communication with Kuwaiti People

She arrived in Kuwait on April 19 to serve as the fifteenth United States Ambassador since its independence in 1961. During a short two-month period in the country, which was accented by the parliamentary elections, the death of the former Emir Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, she has delved into the society swiftly and become immersed in the lives of Kuwaitis, by attending their diwaniyat, holding various cultural events on a plethora of issues, the graduation ceremonies for American schools in Kuwait, and met with young Kuwaiti students who are interested in pursuing their studies at American universities. In a brief period of time, she has strengthened ties with all segments of Kuwaiti society.

Kuwaiti former Minister of Information Mr. Saad bin-Tifla, who hosted Ambassador Deborah Jones in his diwaniya for an hour-long discussion on issues of mutual interest, said that the Ambassador was a a "friend from a friendly country." Incidentally, the event was held on the international Friendship Day in the Kuwaiti suburb of Jabiriya. He described her as an authority on the region after having served in it since 1982 in various capacities and in different countries.

Ambassador Jones noted that the relationship between the Arab world and the United States has always been a complex, dynamic, perplexing one. From the early days of American involvement in the Gulf region, the United States has played an significant role in its development, identity and security. 

In Kuwait, this began with the American Missionary Hospital in 1910 which was built in 1914. It is the oldest hospital in Kuwait and one of the earliest examples of American-Kuwaiti cooperation and provided much-needed medical care to Kuwaitis in the days before oil wealth.  In 1987, during the height of the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwaiti oil tankers would fly US flags to protect them from attacks.

During her presentation at the diwaniya, Amb. Jones confirmed America's interest in spreading democracy worldwide and insisted that it is the only choice. She quoted the words of President Thomas Jefferson, one of the American forefathers and an architect of the US republic, that the best government is the tribal one since the tribal chief knows every member of his clan by name and can represent and act in the best interests of his people. However, in an increasingly globalizing world and larger population size, Amb. Jones remarked that tribal government must give way to democratic principles that have the institutional ability to represent the public.

Language Builds Bridges

Last May, Ambassador Jones addressed students of the ACCESS Microscholarship Program, administered by AMIDEAST, at their graduation ceremony, saying, "It is important that we Kuwaitis and Americans - share with one another our perspectives, our cultures, and our aspirations. Communication builds strong international bridges of understanding that will endure long into the future." She added that "by learning a new language, each and every one of you is helping to foster and fine-tune a dialogue between the future leaders of our two great nations. Land is not a genetic gift; it is a social gift." Following her speech, she welcomed the students to the club of English speakers, noting that learning a new language unlocks a new world of possibilities. The ceremony was attended by 115 students that had completed their 2-year ACCESS program, as well as another 75 who completed the first year, in addition to 48 students who completed a weekend program. The certificates were then given out by Ambassador Jones. The ACCESS program is funded by the US State Department, and administered by AMIDEAST, an organization dedicated to increasing cultural understanding through educational and cultural exchanges between the US and the Middle East. The program operates in 39 countries, and includes more than 3,400 students.

Attending the June 1 Opening of the Parliamentary session.
Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad gave the opening statement.

Ambassador Jones visiting Jassem Al-Khorafi's, the elected
leader of the parliament, diwaniya in May 2008.


American Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1990 prior to his invasion of Kuwait

Some 18 years ago, another woman Ambassador of the United States served in the region as representative in Baghdad. She too played an instrumental role in the region's history. Amb. April Glaspie, who served in Iraq in 1990, was on duty during the Gulf crisis. She had a now high-profile meeting with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990 a few days before the August 2nd invasion of Kuwait. During the interview, she may not have noticed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and his memoir, Mein Kampf!

The question is: Will Ambassador Deborah Jones succeed in implementing peaceful diplomacy in the Gulf region, to promote peace between the region and the US, in the post-Saddam era? We hope so.