Biden, Saudi ambassador’s choice, likely to irritate Mohammed bin Salman: ex-official

  • Biden nominated Michael Ratney, a career diplomat, to be the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
  • A former US official said that the Saudis usually expect a political appointment with military ties, and that choice can humiliate them.
  • Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are currently in a new low.

A former US official told Insider that President Joe Biden’s selection of the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia would likely be considered a disappointment or even an insult to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Last Friday, Biden Nominate Michael Ratney To this position after the departure of General John Abizaid, the former head of the US Central Command, from Riyadh last year.

The nomination comes at a low point in US-Saudi relations, as Biden has clearly distanced himself from the country and Crown Prince Mohammed – also known as MBS – reportedly. Trying to punish him again.

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’s held important positions, he’s rewarded himself well, and he’s been very respectful.”

“But we’ve seen a lot of pressure in the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and that’s not going to help.”

US Consul General in Jerusalem Michael Ratney speaks at the US Consulate in Jerusalem on June 4, 2015 during a reception prior to the Fourth of July celebrations of American Independence Day.  AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI (Should read AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Ratney, US Consul General in Jerusalem, in Jerusalem, June 4, 2015.

Ahmed Karabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Historically, most US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have been politically appointed and have deep military ties, like Abizaid.

Other recent ex-ambassadors include Joseph Westphal, former undersecretary of the US Army, and James Smith, former executive director of Raytheon Arms Manufacturing.

But Ratney, a widely respected Arabic-speaking diplomat, is the first Foreign Service officer to hold the position since Charles Freeman in 1989.

Schenker said Ratney’s appointment might resent Saudi Arabia. One of the basic tenets of the relationship between the two countries has been the American guarantee of Saudi security: the United States maintains a major military base in Riyadh and sells millions of dollars in arms to the Saudis every year. Ratney’s choice of Riyadh may indicate that Biden is not as concerned with the security of Saudi Arabia as his predecessors.

Schenker also said that the position of the Saudi ambassador to the United States is often filled with prominent figures, such as Khalid bin Salman, brother of Mohammed bin Salman, and Princess Reema bint Bandar, the cousin of Mohammed bin Salman and the current ambassador. Schenker said Riyadh expects the same kind of profile in return.

“The Saudi ambassador to Washington is Amira. They will see in this a decline in relations,” he said. “They will understand this in this context.”

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - 28 APRIL (--- Editorial use only - mandatory credit - "Saudi Royal Council" - No marketing, no advertising campaigns - Distributed as a service to customers ----) Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave an interview to the official TV channel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 28, 2021. (Photo by Saudi Royal Council / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Crown Prince Mohammed in Riyadh, April 28, 2021.

Saudi Royal Council via Getty Images

Ratney’s nomination comes at a tense time for the US-Saudi partnership.

The Biden administration has publicly blamed Mohammed bin Salman for widespread human rights abuses, and galvanized US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

On the other hand, Mohammed bin Salman He reportedly ignored Biden’s phone calls and US requests to increase oil productionAnd he said Does not care What does Biden think of him?

Saudis Also alarmed by the weak US response to attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels On the Arabian Peninsula, where Saudi Arabia expects the United States to guarantee its security.

However, in the wake of the announcement, policy experts praised Ratney’s appointment and capabilities.

“If anyone can overcome the mess that the US-Saudi relationship represents, it is Ratney. He will at least provide an honest assessment of how (or how) US-Saudi interests and values ​​do not align. What Biden does is another matter.” chirp Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ratney is currently the Dean of the Language Program at the Foreign Service Institute at the State Department. Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs.

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