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Newsline: New pick for US ambassador to Saudi Arabia will be considered an insult

President Joe Biden’s pick for US ambassador to Saudi Arabia will likely be considered a disappointment or even an insult to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a former US official told Insider. Last Friday, Biden nominated Michael Ratney to the post following the departure of Gen. John Abizaid, a former head of US Central Command, from Riyadh last year. The nomination comes at a low point in US-Saudi relations, with Biden clearly distancing himself from the country and Crown Prince Mohammed — also known as MBS — reportedly trying to punish him back. David Schenker, who served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department from 2019 to January 2021, told Insider of Ratney: “He’s a very capable diplomat, he served in positions of importance, requited himself well, and is held in high regard.” “But we’ve seen a lot of stresses in the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia and this is not going to help.” (https://news.yahoo.com/bidens-pick-us-ambassador-saudi-091033224.html)Historically, most US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have been political appointees with deep military ties, like Abizaid. Other former recent ambassadors include Joseph Westphal, the former under secretary of the US Army, and James Smith, a former executive with the Raytheon arms manufacturer. But Ratney, a widely respected, Arabic-speaking diplomat, is the first foreign-service officer to be in line for the post since Charles Freeman in 1989. Saudi Arabia may therefore be offended by Ratney’s appointment, Schenker said. A core tenet of the two countries’ relationship has been the US guarantee of Saudi security: The US maintains a major military base in Riyadh and sells millions of dollars of arms to the Saudis every year. Ratney’s selection could indicate to Riyadh that Biden isn’t as concerned with Saudi Arabia’s security as his predecessors.

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