Saudi king names child as United States envoy as ties improved with Trump

Sunday, April 23, 2017|5:38 a.m.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia– Saudi Arabia’s King Salman provided a decree late Saturday naming among his kids, an air force pilot who has participated in coalition strikes versus the Islamic State group, as the kingdom’s brand-new ambassador to the United States

. The consultation of Prince Khaled bin Salman to Washington signifies the kingdom’s passion to strengthen bilateral ties under President Donald Trump. As the king’s son, the prince has a direct line to the Saudi king.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s third biggest defense spender. Prince Khaled’s consultation positions him as an influential broker in handle U.S. producers.

Saudi-U.S. relations had cooled under the Obama administration after Washington pursued a nuclear accord with Shiite-ruled Iran that the Sunni-ruled kingdom strongly opposed. Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional rivals, and back opposing sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Relations with the Riyadh have enhanced considering that Trump took office. King Salman dispatched his most powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defense minister, to fulfill Trump at the White House last month. Saudi Arabia was quick to applaud Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian military base in response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Prince Khaled is a former F-15 pilot who finished military-aviation training from Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi in 2009 and participated in anti-IS strikes in 2014 as part of the U.S.-led coalition. He also participated in flight missions over Yemen, where the kingdom has been bombing a Yemeni faction aligned with Iran for more than 2 years.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news site states the prince studied briefly at Harvard University and Georgetown University. The news site says he trained at Nellis Flying force Base in Nevada, however that a back injury forced him to stop flying.

He has been an adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington because late in 2015.

U.S. officials say the Trump administration is thinking about methods to improve military support for the Saudi-led battle versus Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. The U.S. already is assisting the Saudis with intelligence and logistical assistance for the bombing campaign in Yemen, and could help with greater intelligence support to counter Iranian influence there.

Prince Khaled will be changing Prince Abdullah Al Saud, who served in the post for just 18 months. Though a member of the royal household, Prince Abdullah was not viewed as part of the inner Al Saud circle and is not a direct grandson of Saudi Arabia’s creator, King Abdulaziz.

Days prior to being alleviated of his post in Washington, Prince Abdullah published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal requiring ongoing U.S. willpower to end the conflict in Syria.

He said Saudi Royal Air Force jets running from a base in southern Turkey have conducted more than 340 strikes versus Islamic State targets in Syria since February.

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