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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Trump to nominate General Abizaid as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia

An Arab American, fluent in Arabic, Abizaid is the first envoy to be nominated for the post since 2016

The Riyadh skyline in Saudi Arabia. Retired general John Abizaid is set to be nominated as US ambassador to the country. Reuters
The Riyadh skyline in Saudi Arabia. Retired general John Abizaid is set to be nominated as US ambassador to the country. Reuters

After two years of the position being vacant, US President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate retired general John Abizaid as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The nomination of Mr Abizaid, a decorated military commander who fought in six wars and served as the head of Central Command before retiring in 2007, was announced by the White House late on Tuesday. He currently serves as the first Annenberg distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

“General Abizaid began his career in the US Army as an infantry platoon leader and rose to become a four-star general and the longest serving commander of United States Central Command,” the statement read.

He is of Lebanese-American descent and is a fluent speaker of Arabic. Mr Abizaid is a known figure in the Gulf region, having fought in the Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

John Abizaid, seen in Washington in 2003, is in line to become the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. AFP
US General John Abizaid, Commander, US Central Command testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in 2003. AFP

The nomination which will require Senate confirmation follows criticism of the Trump administration for keeping the position vacant for two years.

David Urban, a Trump campaign supporter, was on the shortlist for the position, but Mr Abizaid's military background, at a time the US is putting more emphasis on the conflict in Yemen, has tipped the scales in his favour.

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