January 6, 2024 | Flash Brief

Blinken Travels to Middle East to Address Mounting Threats

January 6, 2024 | Flash Brief

Blinken Travels to Middle East to Address Mounting Threats

Latest Developments

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling across the Middle East on January 4-11 to quell regional threats, the U.S. Department of State announced on the day of his departure. Over the next week, he will travel to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. The State Department said the top U.S. diplomat aims to “stem violence, calm rhetoric, and reduce regional tensions” in part by preventing Hezbollah’s escalation in Lebanon and “deterring” additional Houthi attacks on commercial shipping.

Expert Analysis

“There are plenty of fires burning in the Middle East, which can all be traced to one arsonist: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and the Iraqi and Syrian terror organizations that have been targeting U.S. troops all share the same patron. The current administration wishes to keep each of these threats compartmentalized and pursue them in a game of whack-a-mole instead of facing the reality that the only effective strategy is to pursue the head of the snake in Tehran. Blinken’s trip highlights this failing strategy.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

“If America’s top diplomat truly aims to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis, his Middle East tour affords him opportunities to use American leverage. He should pressure the Qataris and the Turks to lean on Hamas to release the hostages and surrender. He should lean on Egypt to destroy the tunnels connecting Gaza to Sinai. He should convince the Saudis and Emiratis to take an active role in the ‘day after’ in Gaza. And he should convince the Palestinian Authority to relinquish claims on Gaza for the near term in order to ensure its future visibility. None of this is easy. But Blinken has not yet mounted a serious effort on any of these fronts. The ball is now in his court.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

Increasing Dangers

Blinken’s trip comes after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned U.S. Special Envoy Amos Hochstein of a “a short window of time for diplomatic understandings” with Hezbollah. The terrorist group’s numerous terror attacks against Israel’s northern border have caused mass evacuation of Israeli communities. Concern persists that Saleh al-Arouri’s assassination could prompt further aggression by Hezbollah.

The Houthis, meanwhile, have continued their attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, including missile strikes and attempted hijackings. As of January 2, U.S. Central Command has reported 24 attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November 19, 2023. Following the Houthi’s most recent assaults, the White House issued a warning against the Houthis’ “illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing” attacks.

Blinken’s Challenging Task

Secretary Blinken’s diplomatic efforts to prevent regional escalation by Hezbollah and the Houthis face complications. First, Washington has pressured Israel against opening a second front against Hezbollah in Lebanon, yet Jerusalem has made clear that it may have no choice but to increase counterattacks against Hezbollah in order to protect the Israeli people. Second, as Houthi attacks continue to destabilize the Red Sea, the White House has voiced no willingness to impose meaningful consequences against them, such as robust military strikes or redesignating the group as a terrorist organization.

Israel: Time Running Out for Hezbollah to Back Off,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Deploys Warship to Red Sea As Houthis Continue Attacks,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas No. 3 Killed in Beirut Blast,” FDD Flash Brief


Arab Politics Egypt Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jordan Palestinian Politics Turkey