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Why Blinken’s latest Mideast visit is fialing to ease regional turmoil

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Blinken meets Netanyahu on one of his many visits to the Middle East

CAIRO | Xinhua |  At the end of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s fifth visit to the Middle East since the outbreak of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, many in the region are explicit that the U.S. top diplomat has hardly made any progress de-escalating tensions there.

Like its predecessors, the latest visit was marked by lofty rhetoric, but little headway in resolving the Gaza crisis.

WHAT DID BLINKEN DO?

Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy spanned Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank, where he faced a complex regional landscape marked by escalating violence and diplomatic impasses.

As the Gaza conflict enters its fifth month, tensions simmer across the Middle East. U.S. crackdowns on militias in Syria and Iraq coincide with a significant increase in airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, raising concerns about further regional instability.

In the first stop of his visit, Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seeking to advance talks on Saudi-Israeli normalization. While expressing continued interest, Saudi officials reiterated that progress hinges on a credible plan for Palestinian statehood.

Analysts say the United States is pressuring Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for Israel’s agreement to a ceasefire. But the prospects of such a deal are dim as the violence in Gaza shows no signs of stopping. According to the update from the Hamas-run Health Ministry on Wednesday, the death toll among Palestinians in Gaza has surpassed 27,708.

The U.S. top diplomat also met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to discuss a potential ceasefire plan.

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However, optimism about a ceasefire was short-lived. On Wednesday, Blinken presented the ceasefire proposal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who rejected it promptly and vowed to achieve an “absolute victory” in its military offensive in Gaza.

“The Middle East remains unchanged after Blinken’s visit, except for the worsening situation of Palestinians who are dying during his diplomatic failure,” said Salah Bin Laghbar, a Yemeni political analyst based in Aden.

WHY WAS BILINKEN’S DIPLOMACY FUTILE?

The United States’ long-standing support for Israel and recent military operations are eroding trust in American policy across the Arab world, according to Laghbar.

He argued that instead of easing tensions, recent U.S. actions have stoked public anger among ordinary Arabs.

“Arab nations now face the challenge of addressing public sympathy for Palestine, which complicates their response to U.S. mediation efforts,” Laghbar said.

He further criticized the U.S. attempt to frame the escalation as a clash between Iran’s allies and Israel, calling it a deflection from the true root of the conflict: the unresolved Palestinian issue.

“The Gaza conflict remains at the heart of the region’s current turmoil, rooted in long-standing injustices endured by the Palestinian people,” Laghbar emphasized. “Without acknowledging this underlying issue, U.S. mediation efforts will likely face significant obstacles.”

Analysts also suggested that the Biden administration’s pursuit of a ceasefire is driven more by domestic political considerations in the U.S. election year, than by genuine concern for the region.

Gamal Tawfiq, a visiting professor of political studies at Suez Canal University, criticized the U.S. administration’s reluctance to acknowledge the shortcomings of its policies.

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“The U.S. is not serious in its efforts to reach calm or help the civilians in Palestine,” Tawfiq said. “Blinken’s visits to the region, however many times, are meaningless unless it pushes Israel to accept a lasting ceasefire.”

PROSPECTS IN THE MIDEAST

The specter of regional escalation looms large in the Middle East, as ongoing violence in Gaza continues to claim civilian lives and ignite new flashpoints.

“New hotspots are continuously emerging around the Gaza conflict, potentially tilting the region further into instability,” cautioned Laghbar.

Ding Long, a professor at Shanghai International Studies University, echoed this sentiment, expressing concerns over the ineffectiveness of U.S. policy and predicting a likely continuation of the “protracted tug-of-war” in the region. He also said that while a direct war between the U.S. and Iran is improbable, the volatility remains high.

The recent death of U.S. troops in Jordan reignites pressure on the Biden administration to retaliate against Iran, a move which is advocated by some Republicans but others caution could spiral into a full-blown war.

Adding another layer of urgency, Tawfiq said that the Gaza conflict could have dire consequences if it continues into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is only a month away.

“If no ceasefire is achieved in Gaza during Ramadan, there will be a huge wave of rage among the Arabs,” said Tawfiq. ■

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