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Senior Army official said to be in line for Saudi ambassadorship

Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Microsoft) Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Microsoft)

We’re hearing that Army Under Secretary Joseph W. Westphal, the second-highest ranking Army civilian, is the front-runner to be the next U.S. ambassador  to Saudi Arabia.

Westphal, a former chancellor of the University of Maine system,  served as acting secretary of the Army in 2001 and assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works from 1998 to 2001.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Westphal also has congressional experience, having worked as an aide on the House budget committee, and having worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior.

If nominated to the Riyadh post to replace retired Air Force brigadier general Jim Smith, Westphal would be involved in a key country that’s deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war  — and whose loyalties on that front  have been questioned — as well as managing the complicated Saudi role during a potential thaw in U.S. relations with Iran.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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