Retired Army General John P. Abizaid to be U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

 

On November 13, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate retired U.S. Army four-star General John P. Abizaid to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The WH released the following brief bio:

John P. Abizaid of Nevada, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
General Abizaid currently serves as the first Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and works as a private consultant at JPA Associates. Previously, he held the Distinguished Chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He has worked with the Preventative Defense Project at Stanford University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  General Abizaid began his career in the U.S. Army as an infantry platoon leader and rose to become a four-star general and the longest serving commander of United States Central Command.  He served as the Director of Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff and then Director of the Joint Staff among other leadership positions.  General Abizaid was a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and earned his M.A. in Middle Eastern Area Studies from Harvard University.  He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  General Abizaid is a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star.

If confirmed, General Abizaid would succeed Joseph William Westphal (1948–) who was Ambassador to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh from March 28, 2014–January 9, 2017.  Ambassador appointments to Saudi Arabia going back to the mid-1990’s have all been noncareer political appointees. The last career diplomat appointed as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia was Charles W. Freeman Jr. who served from 1990-1992 under George H. W. Bush.

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Halloween 2018: A Great Day For Scaring Kids, Also a Frightful Time For All Else

 

ALSO IN FRIGHTFUL NEWS: The United States could deploy 7,000 armed troops to the US-Mexican border a week before Election Day. It could go up to 15,000, roughly what we have in Afghanistan and three times what the United States deployed to Iraq. Since Mexico refused to fund that wall, the President of the United States now says “”We have to have a wall of people”. Presumably, our friends to the south are not going to pay for this “wall of people” either, so U.S. taxpayers are already saddled with this tab. And since the deployment to the border number will likely kept growing the next few days, the Pentagon probably should ask how deep is this “wall of people” the Commander-in-Chief is talking about.

Meanwhile in Yemen, people have been dying the last three years. Now 14 million people face starvation as the U.S. government continue its military support of Saudi Arabia’s war (see Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy). USG is now seeking a cease-fire over there. Why now? Is it because half of Yemen’s population is on the brink of famine? Or is it because the world is finally paying attention to US-support of the war in Yemen after the Khashoggi murder?  Former USNATO Ambassador Robert Hunter writes that “blanket U.S. support for the Saudi air campaign means that it cannot escape its own share of responsibility.”

Also back in 2010, a State/OIG report estimated that the Yemeni-American community in that country was about 55,000. There were no USG-organized evacuations when war broke out. For those covering Yemen, please ask the Secretary of State his department’s estimate on how many Yemeni-Americans were killed in this war.

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@StateDept to Saudi Suspects Arrested in #KhashoggiMurder: No More New York Shopping For Y’All

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the Khashoggi murder during his remarks to the press on October 23 (via state.gov):

… the State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts, consult with Congress, and work with other nations, and work to hold accountable those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The administration is also taking appropriate actions now, given the information currently available to the United States.

We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible, including those in the intelligence services, the Royal Court, the foreign ministry, and other Saudi ministries who we suspect to have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s death. We are taking appropriate actions, which include revoking visas, entering visa lookouts, and other measures. We are also working with the Treasury Department to review the applicability of Global Magnitsky sanctions to those individuals.

These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable. We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence. We continue to maintain a strong partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Neither the President nor I am happy with this situation.

Our shared strategic interests with Saudi Arabia remain. We continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.

 

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How Cartoonists Around the World See U.S.-Saudi Response to #KhashoggiMurder

 

UNITED STATES

GERMANY

JORDAN

GREAT BRITAIN

AUSTRALIA

CANADA

NEW ZEALAND

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Pompeo’s Photo-Op in Riyadh: Smile. Say. Bone. Saw. #MilesWithMike

 

AND NOW THIS – THE 70th SECRETARY OF STATE GETS THE ONION TREATMENT – THE GORY VERSION.

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Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy

 

AND NOW THIS, the English version though the original one requires no translation:

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Photo of the Day: Excuse me? Who is this person, and why is he redesigning my playtime?

Posted: 2:32 am ET
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Via state.gov:

Secretary Tillerson Greets Staff and Families at U.S. Embassy Riyadh
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greets U.S. Embassy staff and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

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Tillerson Talks About the Styled Redesign and Expected “Quick Wins” in 2018

Posted: 2:21 am ET
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Excerpt from Rex W. Tillerson’s Remarks to Staff and Families at U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 22, 2017:

But a real – a real honor to be here. I do want to say a real quick word because I know there’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing back home with what we’re styling as the redesign of the State Department. And this is very much a bottom-up, a bottom-up, employee – your colleagues – led initiative. Many of you, I hope, participated early on when we had the listening tour, we called it, exercise. We had over 35,000 of your colleagues, and I’m sure many of you responded to the survey that was conducted early on. We had 300 face-to-face interviews with various members of the State Department at all types of positions and including people out in mission.

And this was so that I could get some baseline understanding of what are the issues that you’re faced with, what are the challenges, what are things we can do to help you get your work done more effectively and more efficiently. So out of that we’ve created a number of working teams. There are five core teams that are working on a number of work processes and addressing all kinds of issues, from hardware issues like our IT systems, which I know everyone knows we need some upgrading to, and other ways that we can make you efficient. But we’re looking also at how we train people for assignment, lengths of assignment, how do we allow you to contribute more, what are the obstacles to getting your work done, what are the interface issues, how can we clear some of the obstacles out for you. So this is very much led by your colleagues, and then my role is to try to clear and do some blocking and tackling for all of that effort as well.

So the work’s underway. We’re going to be saying more here as we get towards the end of the year. We have some what we’re calling quick – we believe they’re quick wins and things that we’ll be able to do right away and implement throughout 2018 that we hope you’re going to see the effects of that are going to make your work easier, more efficient. And ultimately, the objective is that you have a very fulfilling, rewarding career. You’ve dedicated yourself. This is what you want to do. We want to allow you to be successful and to have a very fulfilling career and realize all of your own aspirations as well. So it’s something that I’m quite committed to, and we have a great team of folks back home helping us, your colleagues helping us in that regard as well.

Read the full remarks here.

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POTUS Abroad: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, Belgium (NATO), Italy (G-7)

Posted: 11:21 pm PT
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Saudi Arabia May 20–22

Israel May 22–23

Vatican May 24

 

Brussels May 24–25

Italy May 25–27

Bonus tweet!

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#ThrowbackThursday: Secretary of State Addresses Reporters in Saudi Arabia

Posted: 5:35 pm PT
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Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, addresses reporters following a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council member nations on January 23, 2016, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

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