Blinken travels to Israel, Jordan, Other Arab States
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on Thursday morning in Israel, where he is holding talks with the country’s leadership. On Friday, he will travel on to Jordan, where he will meet with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
The U.S. has also announced that from Jordan, Blinken would proceed to other Middle Eastern countries, although none was named. Possibilities include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Blinken spoke to the press on Wednesday, shortly before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington. Blinken repeated the administration’s abhorrence—at the most senior levels—at the murders committed by Hamas in Israel on Saturday.
“We’ve seen the almost indescribable acts committed by Hamas against Israeli men, women, and children,” Blinken stated.
“Every day we’re learning more, and it is simply heartbreaking,” he continued. “Not since ISIS have we seen this kind of depravity, and we will continue to stand very resolutely against it.”
The primary purpose of Blinken’s trip is to affirm U.S. support for Israel.
“We’re determined to make sure that Israel gets everything it needs to defend itself, and provide for the security of its people,” he said. “Already, significant military assistance requested by Israel is on the way,” and more will follow “to make sure that Israel has what it needs.”
Blinken also stressed that the U.S. was working to prevent any widening of the war between Israel and Hamas.
“We will be reiterating, reaffirming the very strong message President Biden has delivered to any country or any party that might try to take advantage of the situation,” Blinken stated. “And that message is: Don’t.”
“The President has deployed,” Blinken continued, “the world’s largest aircraft carrier group to the region to make very clear our intent to deter anyone contemplating any further aggression against Israel.”
Questioned by reporters, Blinken also said that he would remind the Israeli leadership of the importance of avoiding civilian casualties, as they pursue their war against Hamas.
The following day Blinken will travel to Amman, but where will he go after that?
Blinken might go on to Saudi Arabia, as Riyadh has been engaged in this issue in two ways.
The outbreak of the Israeli-Hamas war caused a spike in world oil prices, already elevated because of the war in Ukraine. Oil prices rose on Monday, but the following day, they fell back down again, after Riyadh announced that its intent would be to help stabilize the market.
In addition, on Wednesday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a lengthy telephone conversation with Iranian President Ibrahim al-Raisi. Their call lasted for 45 minutes.
Subsequently, a senior State Department official, traveling with Blinken to Israel, described the discussion as “helpful.”
“The United States has been asking key allies to talk to Israel’s adversaries to prevent the war with Hamas from escalating into a larger regional conflict,” The Washington Post explained.
Blinken might also visit Egypt. The Gaza Strip borders Egypt in the south, and the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza could be used to evacuate civilians from Gaza to a safer place in Egypt. The crossing could also be used to bring humanitarian supplies into Gaza.
John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, told journalists on Wednesday that the Biden administration was in touch with both Egyptian and Israeli officials about the possibility of providing safe passage for civilians, as well as getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
Reportedly, the Egyptian government has rejected the prospect of taking in Palestinian refugees from Gaza, although it is agreeable to providing humanitarian assistance through the Rafah Crossing.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE arises as a possible destination for Blinken, because Biden had a discussion on Wednesday with its president, Mohammed bin Zayed.
According to a White House summary of their discussion, Biden “stressed his condemnation of Hamas’s terror and his warning against anyone who might seek to exploit the current situation,” while they “also discussed the importance of ensuring humanitarian assistance reaches those in need,” and “the two leaders agreed to remain in close contact both directly, and through their teams.”
The policy of the oil-rich sheikhdom has been to appease all possible enemies, even when such policies, intellectually at least, pose a serious contradiction.
Thus, Qatar hosts the biggest U.S. airbase in the Middle East, thereby ensuring U.S. protection. But Qatar also pursues an opposite line.
Qatar has long been a major financial backer of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group. Thus, by its funding, Qatar ensures that Hamas will not attack it either.
Recently, Qatar was involved in securing the release of five Americans held in Iran in a prisoner swap that also involved the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets (with the condition that the money will be used solely for humanitarian purposes.)
Following the release of the imprisoned Americans earlier this month, Biden spoke with the Amir of Qatar and “expressed his appreciation for Qatar’s support for talks with Iran,” according to a White House summary of their discussion.
And soon after Hamas’s attack on Israel, it was reported, on Monday, that Qatar was mediating in that context as well. Qatar’s aim is to secure the release of Israeli women and children held hostage by Hamas in exchange for the release of 36 Palestinian women and children who are held in Israeli prisons.