Blinken Warns of Expanding War in the Middle East, But Restates Full Support for Israel

by | Jan 9, 2024

Blinken Warns of Expanding War in the Middle East, But Restates Full Support for Israel

by | Jan 9, 2024


During a trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned about potential escalations across the region. The diplomat threatened Yemen with consequences if the Houthis continued to attack ships in the Red Sea. Blinken also suggested Washington was unwilling to place conditions on the US aid to Tel Aviv to incentivize a de-escalation. 

Blinken is on a several-day trip to the Middle East. One goal of his travel is to reduce regional tensions. Since the middle of October, American troops in Iraq and Syria have been attacked over 100 times. Additionally, the Houthis have attacked several ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis and Shia militias in Iraq and Syria say the attacks are in response to Israel’s genocidal military operations in Gaza. 

The diplomat began his Mid East tour in Turkey on Saturday. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Blinken “emphasized the need to prevent the war from spreading” in his meeting with Turkish President Erdogan. 

America’s top diplomat warned the Houthis that Yemen will face unnamed consequences if the attacks continue. “We’ve had 40 countries come together to make clear that what the Houthis are doing has to stop,” he said. “We have other countries that have made clear that if it continues, there have to be consequences.”

“These attacks are having a real effect on the prices that people have to pay for food, for medicine, for energy. Ships have to get diverted to other places. Insurance rates go up.” the Secretary of State continued. “And the basic principle of freedom of navigation is what’s at stake. So the international community has a real stake in upholding that principle.”

On Monday, Biden said Washington hoped to avoid a conflict with Lebanon. “With regard to Lebanon, it’s clearly not in the interest of anyone – Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah for that matter – to see this escalate and to see an actual conflict.” 

The White House is pressing Hezbollah to withdraw several miles from the border with Israel. However, the group is unlikely to back down as Israel has assassinated Hamas and Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon during recent days. 

The Huffington Post spoke with a US official who is concerned that Biden’s full-throated support for anything Israel does could lead to a wider war. “I’ve been trying to keep an avalanche from falling on Lebanon and so have a lot of people,” the US official said. “The problem is no one can rein in Biden, and if Biden has a policy, he’s the commander-in-chief ― we have to carry it out. That’s what it comes down to, very, very, very, unfortunately.”

Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Shia militias say their operations targeting Israel, shipping, and American troops are a response to the brutality being inflicted on the Palestinians within the besieged Gaza Strip. Washington has threatened to intervene in Lebanon on behalf of Israel, formed an international coalition to prevent the Houthis’ attacks in the Red Sea, and conducted several assassinations in Iraq and Syria. 

During his trip, Blinken slammed South Africa for charging Israel with genocide at the International Court of Justice. He claimed the charges were “meritless” and that they distract from efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Blinken further added that it was it was “particularly galling” to make the allegation as Hamas and other groups are attacking Israel.

In just over three months, Israel has decimated the Gaza Strip. Over 23,000 Palestinians are dead, including nearly 10,000 children and 6,700 women. Another 8,000 people are missing, likely dying beneath the rubble or already dead. 

In addition to the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, Israel has created a humanitarian crisis. Reuters reports, “Nearly all of Gaza’s residents have fled their homes at least once and many remain on the move, often sheltering in makeshift tents or under tarpaulins.” Tel Aviv’s inspection protocol for aid entering the Strip is restricting deliveries. Over 500,000 Palestinians are suffering in starvation conditions, with another 250,000 suffering from diarrhea or respiratory infections. 

The medical infrastructure of Gaza has been largely destroyed. Surgeons report conducting amputations in unsanitary conditions and without anesthetics, even on children. Aid workers say the hospitals are overcrowded and in need of medical equipment. Hospitals in northern Gaza lack even the most basic needs, such as water. 

Numerous Israeli officials have publicly discussed plans to resettle Palestinians outside Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu says Tel Aviv is seeking countries to “absorb” Gazans. Israeli media has reported Tel Aviv is in talks with the Congo, Chad, and Rwanda about potentially taking in Palestinians in exchange for financial payments and weapons. 

Blinken called on Tel Aviv to allow the Gazans to return to their homes, and the White House claims its making efforts to de-escalate the soaring tensions. However, the situation continues to worsen as the White House has refused to leverage the $3.8 billion in annual military aid that the US provides to Israel to pressure Tel Aviv to roll back its ruthless operations in Gaza to reduce regional tensions. 

Blinken explained the White House will not leverage its aid. “The United States has Israel’s back today, tomorrow, always,” Blinken said in Israel. “It’s our unique bond and America’s enduring commitment to the people of Israel that allows, indeed demands, that we’re as forthright as possible in the moments when the stakes are highest, when the choices matter the most. This is one of those moments.”

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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