Blinken Heads to Mideast Again as Fears of Regional Conflict Surge - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
Connect with us

World

Blinken Heads to Mideast Again as Fears of Regional Conflict Surge

Published

on

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is again heading to the Middle East to focus on easing the factors that could expand the Israel-Hamas war. (AP File)
Share with friends

WASHINGTON — As the Biden administration grapples with an increasingly tense and unstable situation in the Middle East, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to the region this weekend for the fourth time in three months on a tour expected to focus largely on easing resurgent fears that the Israel-Hamas war could erupt into a broader conflict.

With international criticism of Israel’s operations in Gaza mounting, growing U.S. concerns about the end game, and more immediate worries about a recent explosion in attacks in the Red Sea, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, Blinken will have a packed and difficult agenda.

With international criticism of Israel’s operations in Gaza mounting, growing U.S. concerns about the end game, and more immediate worries about a recent explosion in attacks in the Red Sea, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, Blinken will have a packed and difficult agenda.

He leaves just days after a suspected Israeli attack killed a senior Hamas leader in Beirut and, while a White House spokesman said “nobody should be shedding a tear” over his death, it could further complicate Blinken’s mission.

“We don’t expect every conversation on this trip to be easy,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. “There are obviously tough issues facing the region and difficult choices ahead. But the secretary believes it is the responsibility of the United States of America to lead diplomatic efforts to tackle those challenges head on, and he’s prepared to do that in the days to come.”

Blinken leaves late Thursday on his latest extended Mideast tour, which will take him to Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, and Egypt.

Will Seek Regional Assistance to Calm the Conflict

Apart from Gaza-specific priorities he will bring to Israel — including pressing for a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza, a shift toward less intense military operations and a concerted effort to rein in violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank by Jewish settlers — Blinken will be seeking regional assistance in calming the situation.

“It is in no one’s interest, not Israel’s, not the region’s, not the world’s, for this conflict to spread beyond Gaza,” Miller said. The key elements to preventing this will be deterring attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels on commercial Red Sea shipping, deterring attacks on Israel by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, and deterring attacks on U.S. military facilities and interests by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

Yet, U.S. influence with Iran is minimal and it must rely either on its own military deterrence or on partners to make the case with Iran that a regional war would be catastrophic.

‘Iran Is Winning,’ Says Middle East Expert

“Strategically, Iran is winning,” said Paul Salem, head of the Washington-based Middle East Institute. He said Hezbollah and the overall network of Iranian-allied groups are pleased with what the current level of hostilities has achieved.

“Iran is sitting pretty,” he said. “It doesn’t need to do anything dramatic. It is kind of on the winning side.”

Since the Gaza war erupted with Israel’s response to the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, the Biden administration has been seriously concerned about a potential spread in the conflict.

It had breathed a sigh of relief in the weeks following the start of the Israeli operation when it successfully counseled Israeli officials not to mount pre-emptive strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon and sent two aircraft carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean to serve as a deterrent.

Two and a half months later, though, the chances of a regional war have increased with Israel determined to strike Hamas operatives and leaders no matter where they are. Meanwhile, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and pro-Iran militias have stepped up attacks on U.S., Israeli and international interests.

As with his previous Mideast visits, Blinken will be concentrating on expanding humanitarian aid to Gaza, pressing Israel to minimize civilian Palestinian casualties, pushing for the release of hostages held by Hamas, and stressing the importance of planning for the administration of a postwar Gaza.

But, his agenda has been clouded by recent developments, including a drone strike attributed to Israel that killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh Arouri in Beirut’s southern suburbs, explosions in Iran that targeted a memorial service for U.S.-assassinated Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, a drone attack on a pro-Iranian Iraqi militia group in Baghdad and U.S. and allied responses to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement GVwire