Prince Khaled bin Salman as US ambassador establishes ‘personal, direct’ link to Trump

Prince Khaled bin Salman
Updated 24 April 2017
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Prince Khaled bin Salman as US ambassador establishes ‘personal, direct’ link to Trump

WASHINGTON: The appointment of Prince Khaled bin Salman as the new ambassador to Washington is seen by analysts and Saudi-watchers as a boost to US-Saudi relations, establishing a high-level and personal channel with the administration of President Donald Trump.
The move, announced on Saturday as part of a series of decrees by the Kingdom, makes Prince Khaled — King Salman’s son and an air force pilot who flew an F-15 in the campaign against Daesh — the new envoy to Washington at a time of improved relations with the US and increased diplomatic traffic between the two capitals.
Saudi sources told Arab News that the incoming ambassador has recently spent more time in Washington, and is familiar with the lay of the land following Trump’s election last November.
Fahad Nazer, a political consultant based in Washington, said the appointment of Prince Khaled to such an important diplomatic post is consistent with a pattern that King Salman established shortly after ascending the throne in 2015.
“This, like other key appointments, sends an encouraging message to the youth of Saudi Arabia that if you distinguish yourself in your chosen field and demonstrate your abilities, your hard work will be rewarded,” Nazer told Arab News.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, being young is considered an asset, not a liability. Prince Khaled has already served with distinction in the Royal Saudi Air Force. He received part of his education in the US, including in Washington. There’s no doubt that he’ll bring energy and focus — two qualities for which he’s known — to this most important of diplomatic posts.”
Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News that the appointment is notable because “this is the first time a Saudi king appoints his son as ambassador,” signaling a “desire by King Salman to have a direct, permanent and personalized link with the US government and probably the inner Trump circle.”
In that sense, Bahout said Prince Khaled represents an “intimate” channel between Riyadh and Washington.
Publicly, bringing a younger face and an air force pilot to the forefront of Saudi representation in Washington projects an “image of renewal and strong engagement aimed at gradually transforming the public image of the Kingdom in the US, something the Saudis have so far failed at,” said Bahout.
In the Trump era, “the age and familial links of the new envoy should also be a gate for him to access more directly the Trump inner circle, that of his family, sons, daughter, and more importantly the influential son-in-law (Jared Kushner).”
The decision is a “master play by the king on the domestic and diplomatic levels. It’s also a bold move, given it’s uncharacteristic and breaks with traditional image.”


US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 21 January 2019
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US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.