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.