Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiaryto the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
|In his remarks at his ambassadorial swearing in ceremony, John West proclaimed that, "Saudi Arabia is the key to energy, capital and to peace in the Middle East." Earlier, President Carter had welcomed Crown Prince Fahd by noting that the two nations "share a common purpose,...we share a heritage that is completely compatible... We know that this is an important period of a search for peace, and our visits today and tomorrow will be designed to accommodate that search in the face of tremendous challenge, but at the same time tremendous opportunities."|
|President Jimmy Carter placed extraordinary trust in his good friend, John West.|
|The new ambassador's experience and political savvy served the nation well at a time when events in the Middle East gained global prominence.|
|After leaving office as governor, West returned to his private law practice with the goal of building it into a statewide firm with national and international interests. The election of his friend Jimmy Carter as president excited speculation that West might return to public life. The media reported rumors of a seat in Carter's cabinet as a reward for West's strong and very early support of Carter's presidential bid. |
West was appointed Ambassador in May 1977 and served at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh until 1981. When asked why he accepted the Saudi post, West responded by putting both the job and the challenge in perspective, "To achieve peace in the Middle East might be one of the great accomplishments not just of the Carter Administration but of our generation and if I could be a part of it, a meaningful part, it would be of sufficient challenge to warrant me leaving the private sector that I was enjoying."
|King Khalid of Saudi Arabia meeting with Ambassador John West in the late 1970s.|
|President Carter demonstrated great trust in John West, and their close personal relationship was well known by both those in the State Department and Saudi leadership. In his oral history interview with South Carolina Political Collections West noted, "I wrote the president at least once a month, just a handwritten letter, always sending [Secretary of State] Cyrus Vance a copy of it. He encouraged me to keep that up, and most of those are in the Carter Library now in Atlanta. It was just an informal sort of a thing. The King, the Crown Prince, and the defense minister would frequently say, 'You just call your friend President Carter and get him to do so and so.' The fact that they felt that I could do that was a big advantage even though I didn't do it except very rarely. But I did threaten the bureaucracy time and again." |