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John Philip Abizaid (born April 1, 1948) is a United States Army general and former U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander who is currently the United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

John Abizaid
John P. Abizaid official photo.jpg
United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Assumed office
June 16, 2019
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byJoseph W. Westphal
Commander of the United States Central Command
In office
July 7, 2003 – March 16, 2007
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byTommy Franks
Succeeded byWilliam J. Fallon
Personal details
Born (1951-04-01) April 1, 1951 (age 68)
Redwood City, California, U.S.
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1973–2007
RankUS Army O10 shoulderboard rotated.svg General
Commands3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Infantry Division
United States Military Academy
United States Central Command
Battles/warsGrenada War
Persian Gulf War
Bosnian War
Kosovo War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (6)
Bronze Star Medal
Officer of the Order of Australia

Abizaid is 49 years of service.[1] As of 2007, Abizaid is employed as a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.[2] He assumed the Distinguished Chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in December 2007. Abizaid was appointed to the board of directors of RPM International on January 24, 2008, and also sits on the board of directors of the Defense Ventures Group.[3] In 2008 he was selected as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College.[4]

On November 13, 2018, he was nominated as the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.[5] He was confirmed by the United States Senate as Ambassador on April 10, 2019 and sworn in on April 30, 2019.[6] Abizaid formally presented his credentials to King Salman on June 16, 2019.[7]

Early life and educationEdit

A Lebanese American, Abizaid was born in northern California in 1951, and raised in Coleville, California. Abizaid was a 1969 graduate of Coleville High School. His grandparents had immigrated to California from Lebanon during the late 19th century.[8] He was raised Roman Catholic.[8] His father, a Navy machinist in World War II, raised him after Abizaid's mother died of cancer.[8]

Abizaid's military education includes the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York (Class of 1973); Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Armed Forces Staff College, and a U.S. Army War College Senior Fellowship at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

In his civilian studies, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and was an Olmsted Scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan. Abizaid greatly impressed his teachers at Harvard University. Nadav Safran, the director of the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies kept Abizaid's 100-page paper on defense policy for Saudi Arabia, the only paper of a master's student he has kept, saying, "It was absolutely the best seminar paper I ever got in my 30-plus years at Harvard."[9]


Abizaid in 2004
Robert Gates with Fallon and Abizaid at a CENTCOM change of command ceremony in March 2007.
Abizaid briefs the press on the findings of the Dover Port Mortuary Independent Review in the Pentagon in 2012
Abizaid and Tom Ridge speak with Pavel Tkachuk in 2016

Abizaid was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Class of June 1973. He started his career with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as a rifle and scout platoon leader. He commanded companies in the 2nd and 1st Ranger Battalions, leading a Ranger Rifle Company during the invasion of Grenada. In 1983, he jumped from an MC-130 onto a landing strip in Grenada and ordered one of his Rangers to drive a bulldozer like a tank toward Cuban troops as he advanced behind it—a move highlighted in the 1986 Clint Eastwood film, Heartbreak Ridge.

Abizaid commanded the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Regiment combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, during the Persian Gulf War and deployed with the battalion in Northern Iraq to provide a safe haven for the Kurds.

His brigade command was the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He served as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Armored Division, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following that tour, he served as the 66th Commandant at the United States Military Academy at West Point. At West Point, he reined in hazing rituals and revamped the curriculum. Later, he took command of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One," in Würzburg, Germany, from David L. Grange, which provided the first U.S. ground forces into Kosovo. He served as the Deputy Commander (Forward), Combined Forces Command, U.S. Central Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff assignments include a tour with the United Nations as Operations Officer (G-3) for Observer Group Lebanon and a tour in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. European staff tours include assignments in both the Southern European Task Force and Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe. Abizaid also served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) on the Joint Staff and Director of the Joint Staff.

Following the Iraq War and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he assumed command of Central Command from General Tommy Franks.

On December 20, 2006, it was announced that Abizaid would step down from his position and retire in March 2007. He had planned to retire earlier, but stayed at the urging of Donald Rumsfeld.[10] On March 16, 2007, Abizaid transferred command to Admiral William J. Fallon, after serving longer as Commander, U.S. Central Command than any of his predecessors.

On September 8, 2016, Abizaid was appointed advisor to Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.[11]

Other ActivitiesEdit

Since his 2007 election, Abizaid has served as a United Services Automobile Association (USAA) director and a member of USAA's Executive, Finance & Audit, and Compensation & Workforce committees. According to the Nebraska Department of Insurance, Abizaid receives an annual salary of about $300,000/year plus a full pension for his service as a director at USAA.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Abizaid is married[8] and has three children.[8] He learned Arabic in the military.[8]

Global War on Terrorism speechEdit

In November 2005, Abizaid gave a speech on the Global War on Terrorism at the Naval War College.[12]

2006–2007 comments on IraqEdit

On August 3, 2006, Abizaid, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the following about the situation on the ground in Iraq: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war." He also testified, "I'm optimistic that that slide [toward civil war] can be prevented".[13]

Bob Woodward on Abizaid and MurthaEdit

In State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (as excerpted in Newsweek magazine), Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that on March 16, 2006 Abizaid was in Washington to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "He painted a careful but upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq." Subsequently, "he went over to see Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa), the 73-year old veteran Marine who had introduced a resolution the previous November calling for the redeployment of troops from Iraq as soon as practicable." Abizaid said he wanted to speak frankly, and "according to Murtha, Abizaid raised his hand for emphasis and held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch from each other and said, "We're that far apart."

On October 1, 2006, an interview of Woodward by CBS reporter Mike Wallace was broadcast on the television show 60 Minutes. Wallace mentioned the Murtha-Abizaid conversation. Wallace asked Woodward to confirm that Murtha had told him of this tale of meeting with Abizaid; Woodward nodded his head in assent and said yes.[14]

Iran's nuclear programEdit

In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported on September 17, 2007, Abizaid stated, "We need to press the international community as hard as we possibly can, and the Iranians, to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon and we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it." He also said, "I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear."

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said, "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."[15]

Awards and decorationsEdit

Abizaid has been decorated for service, to include:[16][17][18]


International decorationsEdit


  1. ^ Jim Tice (May 2, 2007). "Former CentCom chief retires". Army Times. Retrieved May 2, 2007.
  2. ^ "Stanford welcomes back retired Army general, political scientist". Stanford Report. May 10, 2007. Archived from the original on June 21, 2007. Retrieved June 15, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 2, 2010. Retrieved February 7, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 16, 2008. Retrieved October 21, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Trump names retired general John Abizaid to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia". Washington Post. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "US Ambassador John Abizaid, Indian Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed join other envoys in presenting their credentials to King Salman in Jeddah this morning". Al-Bilad English. June 16, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f de la Garza, Paul (September 3, 2006). "In search of ground truth". St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on June 19, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ Barnard, Anne; Swidey, Neil (March 27, 2003). "U.S. Commander's Background Considered a Strength in War with Iraq". Boston Globe.
  10. ^ Spiegel, Peter (December 20, 2006). "Top general in Mideast to retire". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 6, 2007. Retrieved December 21, 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ Burns, Robert (September 8, 2016). "Retired Gen. Abizaid to advise Ukraine's defense minister". Military Times. Archived from the original on September 9, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ "Notes From a Student at the Naval War College on Army Gen. Abizaid's Recent Speech" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 11, 2005. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ Shanker, Thom (August 4, 2006). "U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War". New York Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  14. ^ Bob Woodward, Mike Wallace (October 1, 2006). Bob Woodward: State of Denial. 60 Minutes (TV-Series). Archived from the original on February 19, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ Abizaid: World could abide nuclear Iran Yahoo News, by Robert Burns Mon Sep 17,[dead link]
  16. ^ "Dartmouth 2009 Honorary Degree Recipient John P. Abizaid (Doctor of Laws)". Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  17. ^ "USIS Advisory Board members bio". Archived from the original on February 15, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  18. ^ "Guest speaker Gen John P. Abizaid". Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  19. ^ Appointed an Honorary Officer (AO) in the Military Division of the Order of Australia Archived July 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine


Further readingEdit

  • Cloud, David; Greg Jaffe (2009). The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army. Random House.

External linksEdit