Trump names retired general John Abizaid new US ambassador to Saudi Arabia

John Abizaid was a top US general from the Iraq war who has studied the Middle East for years. (Reuters)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Trump names retired general John Abizaid new US ambassador to Saudi Arabia

  • Abizaid is a fluent Arabic speaker of Lebanese Christian descent
  • The 67-year-old wrote his master's thesis at Harvard University about Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Tuesday named John Abizaid, a top US general from the Iraq war who has studied the Middle East for years, as ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Abizaid is a fluent Arabic speaker of Lebanese Christian descent who headed US Central Command - which covers the Middle East -during the Iraq war from shortly after the US invasion in 2003 through 2007.

The 67-year-old wrote his master's thesis at Harvard University about Saudi Arabia, studying how the kingdom makes its decisions on defense spending, in a paper that won acclaim in academic circles.

A California native, Abizaid graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and later won a scholarship to study in Jordan, where he honed his Arabic, which he did not speak as a child.

Trump has been slow in filling key posts amid his promises to shake up Washington has not had an ambassador in position in Riyadh for the nearly two years of his presidency.

Trump quickly forged a close relationship with Saudi Arabia upon taking office.

Abizaid requires confirmation from the Senate, which would appear likely as the retired four-star general has long enjoyed respect in Washington.

Shortly after taking over as CENTCOM commander, Abizaid told reporters that US forces were facing a “classical guerrilla-type campaign” from remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

His choice of words contradicted his bosses, who initially tried to portray the Iraq invasion as a quick victory, but then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not move to replace him amid admiration for Abizaid’s skills.

The real estate mogul turned president has shown a fondness for appointing retired generals, with Jim Mattis as defense secretary and John Kelly as his chief of staff.


Media spotlight falls on Saudi Arabia’s most historic sites

Updated 17 December 2018
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Media spotlight falls on Saudi Arabia’s most historic sites

  • Journalists were taken on a cultural and heritage tour of key locations aimed at showcasing the Najd region of the Kingdom as a top visitor destination
  • The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) organized the trip, concentrated around the old towns of Shaqra and Ushaiger

RIYADH: Some of Saudi Arabia’s most historic sites on Sunday went under the media spotlight as part of a drive to boost tourism.
Journalists were taken on a cultural and heritage tour of key locations aimed at showcasing the Najd region of the Kingdom as a top visitor destination.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) organized the trip, concentrated around the old towns of Shaqra and Ushaiger, to coincide with the Colors of Saudi Arabia forum that aims to strengthen national tourism.
Places visited by the group of journalists and writers included Al-Halawa Museum Market, Al-Subaie House, the Husseini Mosque, the House of Mashreq and the heritage village of Ishiqar. They also went to a desert camp, watched cultural shows and ate locally produced cuisine.
Abdulrahman Al-Manee, whose Al-Halawa Museum Market shop was visited by the group, told Arab News: “Collecting antiques and cultural pieces has been my hobby for more than 50 years.”
He graduated from the fine arts school at King Saud University, and has a website where he sells his products throughout the Kingdom and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The SCTH presented a workshop for media professionals during the tour. Majid Al-Hasna, director of media relations at the SCTH, said it is keen to organize more trips for journalists to the Kingdom’s archaeological, historical, heritage and tourism sites.