The Trump administration has nominated John Abizaid, the former head of U.S. Central Command, to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The nomination comes amid increased tension between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, as suspicion hangs over the kingdom about its involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Abizaid attended West Point, and rose from an infantry platoon commander to a four-star general during his distinguished military career.
During the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, Abizaid led an Army Ranger rifle company and reportedly ordered one of his soldiers to start up a nearby bulldozer to use as a tank and allow the company to advance on enemy positions. The unorthodox move inspired a scene in the 1986 Clint Eastwood film “Heartbreak Ridge,” where the Hollywood star similarly used a bulldozer to advance on a Cuban position.
Abizaid is unique among high-ranking military officials for his intimate knowledge of the Arab world. The grandson of Lebanese-Christian immigrants, Abizaid is fluent in Arabic and obtained a master’s degree from Harvard University in Middle Eastern area studies.
Many considered his passion for the Arab world to be an asset during the early years of the Iraq War, when Abizaid oversaw the effort as CENTCOM commander. Now, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Abizaid will be tested in the Arabian peninsula.
Questions linger over the possible involvement of Saudi officials in the killing of Khashoggi, including de facto ruler Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has emphasized that the United States will hold all of those involved accountable, and pressed Saudi Arabia to do the same.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Sarah Kolinovsky