Trump picks Iraq War general John Abizaid as ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Trump picks Iraq War general John Abizaid as ambassador to Saudi Arabia
The US has not had an ambassador in Riyadh since Trump took office in 2017.
2 min read
14 November, 2018
John Abizaid served in the US military for 34 yeras [Getty]
A retired general who commanded American forces in the Middle East has been nominated as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as Washington faces pressure over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Donald Trump has appointed John Abizaid to the role, who, once approved by the US Senate, will be the first US envoy in Riyadh since Trump took office in January 2017.

Abizaid is of Lebanese Christian descent and is a fluent Arabic speaker who led the US Central Command during the Iraq War from 2003 to 2007.

In 2006, he warned that Iraq could slide toward civil war over sectarian violence.

"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war," he said.

In 2007, he said that while the US should work to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, it was possible to live with it. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well," Abizaid said.

Abizaid retired from the military in 2007 after 34 years of service. He is now a visiting fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and a consultant at JPA Associates, the White House said.

Khashoggi, a Saudi royal insider turned critic, was killed in Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Saudi Arabia initially denied any involvement in Khashoggi's killing, but a Saudi public prosecutor later said it was pre-meditated.

The US and other Western governments have faced pressure to punish Saudi Arabia in protest over the Washington Post columnist's murder and the kingdom's deadly war in Yemen.

However Trump has been reluctant to impose sanctions, citing lucrative arms deals and Saudi investments in American firms.