Why the shuttle diplomacy of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Is failing

The word “shuttle diplomacy,” was coined in the aftermath of October 6th 1973. Otherwise know as the Yom Kippur War to the Israelis and the Ramadan War to the Arabs.

Henry Kissinger was then the National Security Advisor of President Richard Nixon. To prevent an escalation of the conflict then, Henry Kissinger was known to have criss-crossed the whole of the Middle East, not excluding Israel, to bring all sides to agree to a full cessation of hostilities.

This time around Anthony Blinken (picture below)—-more likely than not—-is likely to see his wholesale efforts failing. Why ?

To begin with, Blinken’s 5 day diplomatic tour de force, starting on January 7th 2023, has seen him making a trip to meet with King Abdullah in Jordan. Yet the leverage is not necessary in the hands of Jordan.

Between January 11th to 13th 2023, the global attention is likely to fixate on South Africa’s resolution that Israel’s current regime has failed in its commitment to the 1948 Convention Against the United Nations Genocide Convention (UNGC).

This resolution, which for now would be backed by Turkey and Malaysia, in order to be reviewed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), will see South Africa assembling its best legal team to hold Israel to account. Invariably, for bombing close to 85 percent of Gaza, leading to 90 percent of a total of 2.3 million people being rendered “Internally Disposed Persons.” (IDP)

For the lack of a better word, since the world—especially the 22 Arab countries that formed The Arab League—has always wanted to see how Israel would react to the accusations, no Arab countries are bound to assist Blinker to keep the Gaza conflict under wrap.

Nor do they know how since the pugnacious belligerent is, time and again, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Jordan cannot convince the Arab countries to exercise any form of self restraint; especially when IDF has drawn first blood in Beirut, Lebanon, by assassinating the second most senior political leader of Hamas. Namely Saleh Aurori. The latter is known as one of the key founders of Hamas and the militant Al Quds. Saleh Aurori who was the link between Iran and Hizbollah, serves the link between Hizbollah, Hamas and Iran.

When six missiles went despatched by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saleh Aurori, the modus operandi was both thuggish and roguish. Israel did not inform the United States (US) of Tel Aviv’s original intention.

Rather, the Americans were informed only after the six missiles were well underway.
America was consigned to the role of a spectactor.

Next on the trip of Blinken is Turkiye. As far as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Dr Hakan Fidan are both concerned, Ankara has been nothing but patient with the violent antics of Israel since its reaction to the events of October 7th 2023. While Ankara has not only not recalled its Turkish Ambassador from Israel, not unlike South Africa and Bolivia, even the wife of President Erdogan i.e. Emine Erdogdo had called for the First Ladies Summit to put a stop to the violent rampage of Israel. Again, Tel Aviv failed to heed the signal. This despite the fact that by first week of November 2023, 70 percent of the death toll in Gaza continued to be women and children.

As for Blinken’s next trip to Greece, what can Athens do that other countries have simply not tried ? Whether it was humanitarian pause or the call for a permanent ceasefire, the War Cabinet led by Netanyahu has not paid any heed to the casualties that were mounting. With more than 100,000 tones of TNT being dropped on Gaza, which are the equivalent of two Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima alone, it has been as clear as night and day, the Israel was out to pummel the Gazans to sheer pulp.

There was even a leaked Cabinet Paper in Israel, picked up by the left leaning Haaretz, that the Minister of Finance Smotrich, even commissioned a full Cabinet paper, to forcefully all Palestinians in Gaza then West. The leaked paper has also been recanted by the Prime Ministry Office in Israel. But to no avail.

Next on the list of Blinken are trips to Israel, followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Blinken will probably convince all three entities that the Abrahamic Accord remains viable. That all three should continue to look at the proverbial cup as half empty rather than it being half full.

That being said, the Arab streets are in uproar. They cannot stand the sight of more blood and gore. To the degree, Israel ostensibly seems to be withdrawing from Gaza, the prime focus is still on decapitating the political leaders of Hamas who are believed to be hiding in the South or the Khan Younis area, which is atypically a conservative holdout of the Palestinian people.

While IDF claimed to have killed 8000 Hamas leaders and people, research think-tanks such as the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London estimated that Hamas still has 30,000 members.

Meanwhile, there isn’t much that Saudi Arabia can ask the likes of Hamas or Hezbollah, for that matter, Iran, to seek maximum restraint. Saudi Arabia just resumed its diplomatic recognition with Iran through the role of two brokers. Namely Oman and China. Saudi Arabia’s relationship with all trustees in these equations are all too fears.

Meanwhile, the sudden death from the murder of Saleh Al Arouri in Lebanon went 24 KM deep into the heartland of Beirut.

For the first time since October 7th 2023, the ripple effects of Gaza have finally reached Lebanon. Not to be daunted, Hezbollah has ordered a barrage of missiles to hit various military facilities in the northern military command of Israel.

Thus Blinken’s trip has all the signs of a complete failure. Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah are not looking for any cease-fire unless they can be comprehensively and permanently enforced.

Blinken’s trip has also made no mention of the importance of the remaining hostages still held in the 450 KM long tunnels that have remained intact. If anything, after 3 months of aerial bombardments, IDF has achieved nothing.

By drawing its IDF forces from the north of Gaza, IDF may be poised to attack Lebanon again. Nor has Blinken tried to seek peace by sternly warning Prime Minister Netanyahu to go any further. Despite calling him twice or thrice a day for the last few days, neither President Blinker nor Secretary of State Blinken has had any luck in stopping the mangled strategic and tactical errors of Israel.

The Houthis have also aimed their missiles on the oil tankers that traverse through the Red Sea have also been in harm’s way. The maritime borne trade here is 12 percent of the total of the world. 30 percent of the maritime borne trade also find their way to the Suez Canal.

Due to the turbulence of the region, the insurance of the cargo has also increased from 0.05 to 0.07 percent to 5 to 7 percent completely. When all is said and done, the Gaza and Israeli conflict on October 7th 2023 has triggered the riptide that can just suck the Arab world into a vicious vortex.

With one more 5 day trip from Blinken, this being the fifth trip to the region, the US really needs to work with other great and middle powers to the likes of Iran and its proxies, that the Biden Administration does want to have a permanent cease-fire; granted that a perpetual war is bad for the Biden Administration in the run up to the November 3 2024 presidential and congressional elections. In this sense, it would not be all that surprising for the US to use either the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) or/and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to keep sending these peace feelers out to Iran and other hostile groups that hold an adversarial view against the US.


Dr Phar Kim Beng is founder and CEO of Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena. He is a regular featured writer for The Jakarta Post and was the former Director of Political and Security Community in ASEAN Secretariat, a former visiting fellow with the Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA, 1999), and an Associate Fellow of Edx. Org, an online learning platform pioneered jointly by Harvard University and MIT since 2016.


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