Blinken back in Middle East as tensions rise in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran

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On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his fourth trip to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war. He is pressing for quick additional aid for Gaza, which has been severely damaged, as well as de-escalation in the area, so expect harsh talks.

According to the State Department, the senior US envoy will go to five Arab nations: Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to Israel and the West Bank, which is home to the Palestinian Authority.

Blinken is scheduled to depart late on Thursday, traveling first to Turkey, an uncomfortable US ally that is home to important Hamas figures while being one of the only nations with a majority of Muslims to recognize Israel, and then to Greece.

Blinken will talk about “immediate measures to increase substantially humanitarian assistance to Gaza,” a region that is at risk of illness and starvation according to the World Health Organization.

We don’t anticipate that every discussion will be simple throughout this trip. The area is undoubtedly dealing with challenging circumstances, and there are challenging decisions ahead, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

“However, the secretary feels that the United States of America should spearhead diplomatic initiatives to address those issues head-on,” he stated.

Blinken’s speech will focus on “immediate measures to increase substantially humanitarian assistance to Gaza,” a location where the World Health Organization warns of disease and famine.

We don’t think that this trip will have easy conversations at every turn. Undoubtedly, the region is facing difficult conditions, and difficult decisions lie ahead, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

“However, the secretary feels that the United States of America should spearhead diplomatic initiatives to address those issues head-on,” he said.

At least 84 people were murdered in the worst attack to strike Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979 on Wednesday, while US authorities denied any involvement from the US or Israel. The incident was claimed by the Islamic State organization.

Growing toll

Since Israel suffered its deadliest-ever strike on October 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded and murdered almost 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on Israeli numbers, President Joe Biden’s administration has been a vital source of assistance.

The Arab world has been incensed by the United States’ two vetoes of ceasefire requests at the UN Security Council. A few days ago, Blinken circumvented Congress once more to send weaponry to Israel.

However, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues his unrelenting retaliatory onslaught in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas and has mostly collapsed, Biden has also publicly expressed his frustration with Netanyahu.

According to the health ministry administered by Hamas, approximately 22,400 people have perished in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians. The majority of Palestinians living in the poor and blockaded area have also been forced to flee their homes.

The Biden administration has claimed responsibility for influencing Israel on a number of aid-related matters, such as granting access to commercial vehicles and limited gas.

The calls for the wholesale deportation of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip made by far-right members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have also caused alarm for the Biden administration.

Additionally, Blinken is probably going to put pressure on Israel to cease obstructing the tax income transfer to the Palestinian Authority, a long-standing agreement that Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s far-right finance minister, opposes.

The Palestinian Authority, whose governing Fatah movement is Hamas’s adversary, has a future in the Gaza Strip, according to the United States, but Netanyahu has long attempted to undermine the body’s semi-autonomy and is opposed to the ultimate establishment of a Palestinian state.

Turkey-Greece equilibrium

Blinken will also make a quick trip to Greece on Saturday. Greece is anxious about the US reportedly planning to sell its long-standing enemy, Turkey, F-16 fighter fighters.

After Turkey finally approves Sweden’s long-delayed NATO membership—the country had previously expressed doubts about joining the Western military alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—the Biden administration is anticipated to make the offer of the planes.

NATO demands unanimity, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, has used his power to pressure other countries into making concessions, such as Sweden taking action against Kurdish terrorists who are hostile to Ankara.

Ratification is being advanced by the Turkish parliament. Finland had submitted a combined membership application with Sweden, and Turkey had granted Finland’s admission into NATO last year.