W. Nathaniel Howell

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W. Nathaniel Howell

Wilson Nathaniel "Nat" Howell (born September 14, 1939) is an American diplomat and educator. He served as the United States Ambassador to Kuwait from 1987 to 1991.

Born in Portsmouth, Virginia, Nat earned a B.A. at the University of Virginia, 1961. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in Government and Foreign Affairs at UVA, 1965, and entered the Foreign Service. From 1970 to 1972, he studied Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute, Beirut, Lebanon.

On May 26, 1987, President Reagan announced his intention to nominate Howell to be Ambassador of the U.S. to Kuwait. Howell was at his post awaiting reassignment when, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, was declared closed by Saddam Hussein on August 24, by which time many Americans and other nationals had taken refuge on the embassy compound. Iraq's declaration of the annexation of Kuwait, by means of trumped-up historical, economic and political pretexts, was not recognized by the U.S. It was decided to keep the mission open, under siege, as Iraq would not allow non-diplomats to leave the country (Iraq retained foreign "guests" as human shields, to deter military strikes).

For reasons best known to himself, Saddam relented and allowed all persons on the compound to leave overland, by way of Baghdad, in mid-December 1990, before the start of the Gulf War. At that point, Howell and the remainder of his staff left the embassy unoccupied, though technically not "closed," until his successor, Skip Gnehm, returned upon the liberation of Kuwait.

In 1992, W. Nathaniel Howell joined the faculty of UVA. His positions included diplomat-in-residence; director, Arab Peninsula and Gulf Studies Program; member of the Steering Committee of CIAG; and John Minor Maury, Jr., Professor of Public Affairs. He retired as Professor Emeritus in early 2015.

Service chronology[edit]

Nat Howell's Diplomatic Chronology
Position Host Location Year(s)
US Foreign Service Washington, D.C. 1965 to 1966
US Foreign Service Cairo, Egypt 1966 to 1967
US Foreign Service (NATO) Paris, France
Brussels, Belgium
US Foreign Service (INR) Washington, D.C. 1968 to 1970
US Foreign Service (FSI: Arabic) Beirut, Lebanon 1970 to 1972
US Foreign Service Abu Dhabi, UAE 1972 to 1974
US Foreign Service Beirut, Lebanon 1974 to 1976
US Foreign Service (NEA/ARN) Washington, D.C. 1976 to 1982
US Foreign Service (NWC) Fort McNair 1982 to 1983
US Foreign Service (DCM) Algiers, Algeria 1983 to 1985
US Foreign Service (CENTCOM POLAD) MacDill AFB 1985 to 1987
U.S. Ambassador Kuwait City, Kuwait 1987 to 1991

Further reading[edit]

  • Culbertson, Roberta; Howell, W. Nathaniel (2001). Siege: Crisis Leadership: The Survival of U.S. Embassy Kuwait. Charlottesville, VA: VFH Press. ISBN 0-9668919-2-9. 
  • Howell, W. Nathaniel (2016). Strangers When We Met: a Century of American Community in Kuwait. New Academia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9966484-1-7. 

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton
U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait
Succeeded by
Edward William Gnehm, Jr.