Biden nominated Michael Ratney, a career diplomat, to be the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
A former US official said the Saudis usually expect a politically appointed one with military ties and could be offended by this election.
Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are currently at a new low.
President Joe Biden’s election as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia is likely to be seen as a disappointment or even an insult to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a former US official told Insider.
Last Friday, Biden nominated Michael Ratney for the post following the departure of General John Abizaids, former head of the US Central Command, from Riyadh last year.
The nomination comes at a low point in relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, where Biden clearly distances himself from the country, and Crown Prince Mohammed – also known as MBS – reportedly tried to punish him back.
David Schenker, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the State Department from 2019 to January 2021, told the Insider of Ratney: “He is a very capable diplomat, he served in positions of importance, served himself well and is held in high esteem. . “
“But we’ve seen a lot of stress in the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and that will not help.”
Historically, most U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have been politically appointed with deep military ties, such as Abizaid.
Other former ambassadors include Joseph Westphal, the former U.S. Secretary of State, and James Smith, a former head of the Raytheon arms manufacturer.
But Ratney, a widely respected, Arabic-speaking diplomat, is the first foreign service officer to stand in line for the post since Charles Freeman in 1989.
Saudi Arabia may therefore be offended by Ratney’s appointment, Schenker said. At the heart of the two countries’ relationship has been the US guarantee of Saudi security: the United States maintains a large military base in Riyadh and sells millions of dollars of weapons to the Saudis each year. Ratney’s choice could indicate to Riyadh that Biden is not as concerned about Saudi Arabia’s security as his predecessors.
Schenker also said that the post of Saudi ambassador to the United States is often filled with leading figures, such as Khalid bin Salman, MBS ‘brother, and Princess Reema bint Bandar, MBS’ cousin and the current ambassador. Riyadh would expect the same type of profile in return, Schenker said.
“The Saudi ambassador to Washington is a princess. They want to see this as a downgrade of the relationship,” he said. “They will understand this in that context.”
Ratney’s nomination comes at an exciting time for the Saudi partnership.
The Biden administration has publicly admonished the MBS over widespread human rights violations and spoiled US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
In return, MBS has reportedly ignored Biden’s phone calls and US requests to increase oil production, saying he does not care what Biden thinks of him.
The Saudis are also annoyed by the weak US response to attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels on the Arabian Peninsula, as Saudi Arabia expects the United States to guarantee its security.
Still, in the wake of the announcement, political experts praised Ratney’s appointment and his abilities.
“If anyone can navigate the mess that is American-Saudi ties, it’s Ratney. He will at least give an honest assessment of how (or how) American-Saudi interests and values align. What Biden does is another case. ” tweeted Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Ratney is currently Dean of the State Department’s Foreign Service Language Program. He has previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Read the original article on Business Insider