By Ben Hubbard
Saudi Arabia appointed a princess as its new ambassador to the United States on Saturday, the first time the kingdom has named a woman to such a post.
The appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan by royal decree came amid strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States over the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul in October.
While members of Congress have pursued measures to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing and to cut military aid to the Saudi war in Yemen, President Trump has stood by the kingdom, seeing it as a valuable Middle Eastern ally and reliable buyer of American weapons.
Princess Reema will replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman and a younger brother of the crown prince, who took the post in 2017. Also in a royal decree on Saturday, Prince Khalid was named deputy defense minister under the crown prince, who heads the ministry.
Since his father ascended to the throne in 2015, Prince Mohammed has pushed for vast changes in Saudi Arabia. He has called for a more diversified economy, granted women the right to drive, expanded entertainment options and moderated the kingdom’s official religious rhetoric, while also spearheading a disastrous military intervention in Yemen and other policies that have raised doubts about his judgment.
The appointment of Princess Reema to Washington appeared aimed at turning a new page after the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia and was a columnist for The Washington Post, while also emphasizing the kingdom’s social reforms in the capital of its most important ally.
In addition to representing the new possibilities now available for Saudi women, Princess Reema is the daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a towering figure in Saudi diplomacy who served as the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. He was so close with the Bush family that he was often referred to as “Bandar Bush.”
Princess Reema spent many years in Washington while her father was ambassador and graduated with a degree in museum studies from George Washington University. She has recently served in the kingdom’s sports commission.
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