After 2 years without one, Trump nominates an ambassador to Saudi Arabia amid Khashoggi crisis

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesRetired Gen. John Abizaid speaks at the Pentagon in 2012.
  • Donald Trump has nominated John Abizaid, a retired four-star general, to be the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
  • Abizai led the US Central Command during the Iraq war.
  • The position has been vacant since Trump took office in January 2017, and Abizai’s nomination needs to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • The nomination comes at a time when US-Saudi relations are being tested after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Donald Trump has nominated retired Army general John Abizaid to be the country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, giving him a representative in Riyadh at a time when the two country’s relations are under increased scrutiny after the killing of a Saudi journalist. Abizai led the US Central Command during the Iraq war as a four-star Army general. He has served as special envoy to the Ukrainian military since 2016, advising it against Russia, The New York Times reported, and previously studied Middle Eastern area studies at Harvard.

The nomination, made on Tuesday, needs to be confirmed by the Senate.

The position of US ambassador to Saudi Arabia has been empty since Trump took office in January 2017.

GettyImages 72559839Alex Wong/Getty ImagesCommander of US Central Command Gen. John Abizaid testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in November 2006 about the Iraq war.

Trump’s nomination comes at a time when US-Saudi relations are being tested after Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in the US and wrote for The Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Riyadh has sought to distance its leadership, particularly the crown prince, from Khashoggi’s killing, despite a string of allegations implicating him in the killing.

Turkish officials claim that Khashoggi was killed by a 15-member assassination squad that was sent on orders from the Saudi government.

Read more: US intelligence reportedly thinks Khashoggi’s killers informed Saudi’s crown prince once the ‘deed’ was done

While Trump has vowed “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia was found to be involved, the US has not yet specifically punished the kingdom in connection to the killing. The US has broken with the kingdom in calling for a ceasefire between Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and a Sauid-led coalition and announced it would stop supporting Saudi aircraft in the conflict, but did not explicitly tie it to Khashoggi’s killing.

A former CIA case officer and intelligence analyst said on Tuesday that the Trump administration is helping the Saudi Crown Prince to cover up Khashoggi’s murder.

Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, criticised the Trump administration’s approach to the investigation accusing it of taking a position “devoid of moral foundation.”

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