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.


First Saudi female air traffic controllers begin work

Updated 22 March 2019
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First Saudi female air traffic controllers begin work

  • Eleven women completed a one-year program conducted by Saudi Air Navigation Services

JEDDAH: Saudi Air Navigation Services (SANS) on Wednesday celebrated the appointment and start of work of the first batch of Saudi female air traffic controllers at an air traffic control center in Jeddah.
Eleven women completed a one-year program conducted by SANS in cooperation with the Saudi Academy of Civil Aviation. This is the first program to qualify women to work as air traffic controllers.
The academy initiative, in collaboration with SANS, seeks to create more jobs for women as part of a reform push to wean the economy off oil. Vision 2030 plan aims to increase employment and diversify revenue sources.
Earlier, SANS CEO Ryyan Tarabzoni said the state-owned company was prioritizing the hiring of women in the profession, as the country pushes to extend women’s rights in the country and also recruit more nationals as part of the “Saudization” project.