In the most dramatic — and unusually chaotic — moment of the Middle East tour for America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken rushes into a bunker.
After his second visit to Israel in five days, Mr. Blinken was scheduled to land in Amman, Jordan, on Monday night, but he was stuck marathoning a late-night negotiating session in Tel Aviv, and his next destination was uncertain. A journey originally planned for two days has now extended to its sixth, with 10 stops and counting.
An official’s travel schedule is carefully planned and rarely revised, Mr. Blinken’s frantic journey underscores the scale and complexity of the diplomatic crisis he faces.
After being attacked by Hamas on October 7, Mr. Blinken tries to show US support for Israel. limit Arab criticism of Israel’s military response; win the freedom of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza; And possibly including Hezbollah and Iran in the U.S. to prevent escalation of the conflict.
A ghostly Mr. It was a rough ride for Blingen.
Speaking to reporters in Cairo on Sunday, two days after his first visit to Israel, Mr. Blinken admits that even for him, things have gotten blurry. Since leaving Washington on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Blinken said. Two stops each in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
For Foreign Servicemen, Mr. Blinken’s journey was reminiscent of a recent precedent. John Kerry, who was secretary of state during the Obama administration, often extended and upgraded his trips — even changing destinations mid-flight.Seat-of-the-band diplomacy.” Mr. Blinken, who usually travels Monday through Friday, returns in time to spend the weekend at home with his two young children.
The temporary nature of the trip began a few days after the Hamas massacres. Mr. Blinken immediately moved to the area he had planned for the following week. He will leave for Israel and Jordan on October 11 and return on Friday, October 13, the State Department announced.
State Department officials, in consultation with the White House, Mr. The plan soon fell apart as Blinken expanded his itinerary to include several other major capitals.
“Henry Kissinger’s 33-day trip to broker an Israeli-Syrian accord following the October 1973 war sets a Middle East shuttle record,” said Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former longtime secretary of state. Eastern negotiator. “Blinken’s recent wild ride in the region doesn’t compare. But it reflects the uncertainty and confusion of a crisis the administration didn’t see coming, and the complexity of the challenges ahead.”
“From here on in,” he added, “the secretary may want to pack a few extra shirts. If the administration wants to make a difference in this region, there are likely to be some wild rides in his future.”
Making a change won’t be easy. Mr. Blinken has yet to succeed in one of his goals: protecting American citizens in Gaza from crossing the border into Egypt. Hundreds were trapped at the border, which was sealed on Monday.
Not for trying. On Thursday, after they arrived in the region, Mr. Blingen and his assistants made their schedule for the next day: four countries in one day, from Jordan to Qatar to Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
They sometimes improvised transportation: To get from their first stop, Tel Aviv, to Amman, after they sent a regular Boeing 757 Air Force jet ahead, they rotated a C-17 U.S. military plane over Cyprus. US diplomats meet with Israeli officials.
In Jordan, Mr. Blinken met with King Abdullah II at his palace, then met with Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, at a villa. In Qatar, Mr. Blinken held a joint press conference with the Prime Minister in a lavish government building. In Bahrain, he spoke with the prime minister, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, in a VIP airport lounge as royal guards in dress uniform rolled out the red carpet on the tarmac exterior.
To squeeze in meetings, Mr. Blinken took a quick day trip from Riyadh to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday before returning to the Saudi capital. On Saturday night, he was set to meet with the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three years after the Biden administration discovered and released intelligence on the 2018 killing and dismemberment of the Saudi. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
That meeting introduced a new element of uncertainty. Mr. Reporters traveling with Blinken were told to be ready at any minute to leave their hotel in the secretary’s motorcade for an audience with the crown prince, the region’s most powerful Sunni Muslim ruler.
It went on for a long time, from midnight to 2 am, and then to 4 am, and finally, just after 7:30 am on Sunday morning, Prince met Mr. Agreed to meet Blinken at his private farmhouse. (Journalists who stayed up almost all night were eventually denied entry.)
Officials said it was customary for the prince to wait even for important visitors. However, it was a rare and often frustrating experience for the sleep-deprived Mr. Blingen, who worked around his schedule to interact with foreign officials.
At midday on Sunday, it left for Egypt – said to be Mr Blinken’s last stop before returning home. At the beginning of their meeting in Cairo, the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Mr. “I know this is your last grand tour of the region,” he told Blinken.
Not so fast. After speaking with President Biden, Mr. Blinken added a return trip to Israel to his schedule. He spent the night in Jordan before flying back to Tel Aviv on Monday morning and traveling to Jerusalem to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again.
At this time, the State Department officials Mr. Rumors began that Biden might visit Israel this week. Plans to return to Washington on Monday were scratched. The new plan is to return to Jordan after negotiating with Israeli leaders regarding humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, where everyone will await further instructions.
In Jerusalem on Monday, between meetings with Israeli leaders, Mr. Blinken made an unscheduled stop at the American ambassador’s residence, arriving to borrow a secure line for a call to Washington. Earlier, the White House, Mr. Biden announced that he was canceling a trip to Colorado for a national security meeting — possibly because Mr. Blinken calls out.
Mr. Blinken’s voyage is also charged with an unusually dangerous current. Plainclothes security officers wore body armor and helmets to guard his plane during his stopover in Israel.
On Monday, Mr. Soon after Blinken’s convoy left Jerusalem, air sirens blared to signal incoming rockets or missiles. Everyone in the town ran for shelter. Sirens also sounded in Tel Aviv. Officials and journalists in convoy between the two cities were told to race out of their cars and lie on the ground by the roadside when the sirens sounded.
Mr. Blinken Mr. After meeting with Netanyahu and his war cabinet, the sirens sounded again. The traveling journalists and Israeli soldiers who were standing outside entered the staircase inside the house.
As the sirens sounded, Mr. Blinken and Mr. Netanyahu was also meeting. Mr. Blinken and the Israeli officers descended into a bunker for five minutes. They then went to a command center to continue a meeting on humanitarian aid, which was halted by a third siren before coming into view in the early hours of Tuesday morning – much longer than originally planned.