The Senate overwhelmingly voted to confirm retired Gen. John Abizaid as the new US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a 92-7 vote, paving the way for the former head of then U.S. Central Command to be the first person to fill the post since President Trump took office.
President Trump’s choice for the next U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia faced tough questions from U.S. senators during his confirmation hearing, but defended the U.S.-Saudi relationship on Wednesday and said the United States needed “a strong and mature partnership with Saudi Arabia.”
Senators grilled Abizaid on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the war in Yemen, nuclear power, the rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and recent decisions by Saudi leadership.
Of the seven senators that voted against Abizaid, four have announced they are running for President. Sens. Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Udall (D-NM), Warren (D-MA), and Sanders (I-VT) voted against the nomination.
“I would like to make the current problems short-term problems,” Abizaid said, as he noted that the U.S.-Saudi relationship was bigger than the relationship between individuals in government. “Arab societies and Saudi Arabia in particular have many nodes of interest. These nodes of interest need to be engaged by [the U.S.] in order to find out ways to move forward and solve these problems.”
A strong U.S.-Saudi relationship is in the best interests of the United States because “[d]oing so bolsters the self-defense capabilities of our partners and reduces the risk of harm to civilians,” Abizaid said during his confirmation hearing.