President Trump has nominated John Abizaid, a retired US general of Lebanese Christian descent, as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
By: Trista Youssef
Rabat – General Abizaid is a top-ranking general who led the US Central Command from July 2003 to March 2007. He oversaw US activities in the Iraq war under former US President George W. Bush.
Abizaid currently serves as consultant and fellow at Stanford University.
Abizaid, who speaks fluent Arabic, is highly regarded by military and diplomatic veterans and known for his extensive experience in the Middle East.
Abizaid’s nomination comes at a time where US-Saudi relations are strained by the death of US resident Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national, who was brutally killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a Saudi hit squad.
Trump’s decision to appoint Abizaid shows the emphasis put on the military relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia in light of a multi-billion dollar arms deal in 2017. Although Trump claims “severe consequences” will face Saudi Arabia in light of Khashoggi’s death, he intends to keep the arms deal intact.
The ambassador position to Saudi Arabia has been vacant throughout Trump’s presidency. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner previously acted as a liaison to Saudi Arabia. He is cited as being in frequent phone communication with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and took an unscheduled trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
It is unclear whether Kushner will continue to be the main contact with the crown prince or if Abizaid will assume control over the US-Saudi communication channel.
Abizaid’s appointment has yet to be confirmed by the US Senate.