U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain: Who Is Justin Siberell?

Friday, August 25, 2017
Justin Siberell

Justin Hicks Siberell, a career member of the Foreign Service, was nominated July 27, 2017 to be the U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain. If he’s confirmed, it will be his first such assignment.


Siberell is from Hillsborough, California, and graduated from San Mateo High School in 1984. He went on to the University of California Berkeley and earned a B.A. in history in 1988.


Siberell joined the Foreign Service in March 1993. One of his first assignments was in Panama City, Panama and he also served as economic officer in Dubai in the mid-1990s. Washington assignments included a tour at the State Department Operations Center and Executive Secretariat and as desk officer for Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Siberell also served in the White House toward the end of the Clinton Administration as executive assistant to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. In 2002, Siberell graduated from the State Department’s Arabic Language Field School in Tunis, Tunisia. In August 2002, he was posted to Amman, Jordan, as press attaché at the U.S. embassy. He served there until 2004. Between September and December 2003, he served in Iraq, first in Najaf and then in Baghdad and as press officer for the Iraqi Governing Council's trip to the Madrid Donor Conference.


Siberell also served in the mid-to-late 2000s as director of the Alexandria American Center, at that time a State Department outpost focusing on American culture. It had previously been a consulate, and would be again beginning in 2012.


In 2009, Siberell began a second stint in Dubai, this time as consul general. He supervised the opening of a new consulate in the United Arab Emirates city in August 2011. He returned to Washington in 2012 to work in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, first as deputy coordinator for regional affairs and subsequently as principal deputy coordinator and as acting coordinator for counterterrorism. He was nominated September 2016 to be coordinator for counterterrorism, but the Senate never took up his nomination. One of his jobs there was to produce the annual Country Reports on Terrorism, charging in 2016 and in 2017 that Iran was the leading government sponsor of terrorism. In 2017, he emphasized that the majority of the world’s terrorist attacks the previous year took place in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Under Siberell’s watch in 2017, Cuba was dropped from the report for the first time in 33 years; the State Department finding no terrorism of note emanating from that country during the previous year.


On June 5, 2017, Siberell led the secret briefing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “Beyond Iraq and Syria: ISIS' Global Reach.”


Siberell and his wife, Arnavaz (Arnie), whom he met during his first tour in Dubai, have three children. Siberell speaks Arabic and Spanish.

-Steve Straehley, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Official Biography

Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell on the Release of Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 (State Department)

State Department Cables (2002-2010) (WikiLeaks)


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