FaceOf: John Phillip Abizaid, US ambassador nominee to Saudi Arabia

John Phillip Abizaid
Updated 16 November 2018
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FaceOf: John Phillip Abizaid, US ambassador nominee to Saudi Arabia

  • Abizaid graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1973.
  • A fluent speaker of Arabic, Abizaid served as a general in the Arabian Gulf, Bosnian, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq wars

John Phillip Abizaid is set to be the next US ambassador to Saudi Arabia. A Lebanese-American, he was a four-star general in the US Army. Abizaid retired in 2007 after 34 years’ service. At that time he was the longest-serving commander of US Central Command. Previously he served as a distinguished chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump nominated him as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 

A fluent speaker of Arabic, Abizaid served as a general in the Arabian Gulf, Bosnian, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. With extensive experience of Middle Eastern affairs, he led the US Central Command — which covers the whole Middle East — during the Iraq War shortly after the US invasion in 2003 until 2007. 

As the US Central Command (USCENTCOM) commander, he oversaw US military operations across a 27-country region covering the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, South and Central Asia and much of the Middle East. USCENTCOM commanders oversee an estimated 250,000 troops.

Abizaid graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1973. He received an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University, where his 100-page paper on Saudi Arabia’s defense policy was highly acclaimed. 

While in Jordan, Abizaid served as an Olmsted Scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman. 

Since retiring from the military, Abizaid has been a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Abizaid’s appointment as ambassador requires Senate approval, but this is thought to be a formality as he is held in high regard in Washington.


Innovative Saudi cultural center showcases world-famous ‘The Scream’ artist’s exhibition

Updated 23 min 23 sec ago
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Innovative Saudi cultural center showcases world-famous ‘The Scream’ artist’s exhibition

  • 40 works by Edvard Munch go on display for first time in Middle East

DHAHRAN: A dynamic Saudi cultural center is to showcase the works of one of the world’s most famous painters in an exhibition-first for the Middle East.

Forty pieces by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, best known for his iconic “The Scream” painting, will go on public display at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).

The special exhibition, titled “Landscapes of the Soul,” is the latest in a series of high-profile cultural events to be staged at the showpiece Dhahran museum.

Developed by Saudi Aramco with the aim of stimulating knowledge, creativity and cross-cultural engagement, Ithra’s theater, museum, exhibition hall and art gallery complex forms a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan to promote culture and entertainment.

The Munch exhibition, which runs until Sept. 3, portrays the artist’s personal life experiences of misery, love, despair, loneliness and reflections of the soul, through his distinctive works.

“It is such an honor to host and introduce to Saudi Arabia, and indeed, the Middle East, the work of the world-renowned artist Edvard Munch,” Rania Biltagi, Ithra’s head of communications and partnership, told Arab News.

Munch’s (1863-1944) original exhibition has been located in Oslo, Norway since 1963, and the Saudi display is being staged in Ithra’s Great Hall in partnership with the Munch Museum in Norway.

As well as a lithograph version of his most famous painting “The Scream,” other works on show will include “Summer Night. The Voice,” 1894, “Self-Portrait,” 1895, and “The Sick Child,” 1896.

“A moment that stood out from the opening was when speaking to a couple visiting the exhibit, they mentioned that they were Norwegian and working in Saudi,” Biltagi said. “They explained that they had never had the chance to visit the Munch Museum in their homeland and what an unexpected pleasure it was to be able to see Munch’s work in Saudi.”

Biltagi added that the event epitomized the aim of Ithra in providing a platform to bring together cultures as well as people.

The center, featured in Time magazine’s list of the world’s top 100 places to visit, is a pioneer on the Kingdom’s culture and arts scene, organizing a variety of events, performances, programs and experiences to suit all ages and backgrounds. Previous exhibitions have included a focus on Saudi contemporary art, Leonardo da Vinci, and installations symbolizing creativity and innovation.