He whom the gods would destroy they first make mad--or just the latest American envoy to the Middle East. And this week their scapegoat of choice has been Rex Tillerson, the current American secretary of state. He's the major-domo and general factotum of this country's foreign policy. Or lack of one.
So he's been sent off on a less than grand tour of Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey--dangerous destinations all. Not the least of the challenges facing the secretary will be telling friend from foe. To quote an anonymous official at the State Department who's clearly just trying to keep his head down and stay out of the line of fire: "These are some of our closest partners. But they're also partners with whom we're facing some of the toughest issues that we have to face in the region."
At the same time this country is still chasing the will-o-the-wisp that is the dream of democracy in the Middle East, which is why the United States has suspended $195 million in military aid to Egypt, even as this country needs Egypt to help fight terrorists, i.e. the Islamic State, in northern Sinai. Put all these jagged pieces together and they still don't amount to a coherent picture of foreign policy. So good luck, Secretary Tillerson. You'll need it and a lot more to deal with this wiggling can of worms, toads and scorpions.
Almost everywhere you look in the swirling sands of the Middle East, trouble is brewing or has already erupted. The secretary's itinerary is scarcely a five-star tour of luxury hotels; it's more like an invitation to acrimony or worse. How odd of God to choose the Jews as the bearers of the Good News, for the elusive peace of God still surpasseth all understanding after millennia have gone by and the future long ago became the past.
Secretary Tillerson will have a more than full agenda as he confers with his counterparts in the troubled region--all 74 of them--representing members of the coalition opposed to the Islamic State, which never ceases to make trouble. The secretary of state will also have to discuss the trade embargo that various countries had imposed on Qatar. He'll be trying to mediate that dispute, too, because Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have complained that Qatar is moving too close to allying itself with the militants in Iran--though the accusation is being heatedly denied.
Our president and tweeter-in-chief is scarcely the most popular figure these days in Jordan, which is also one of the secretary of state's stops. Its large population of Palestinians scarcely makes for a hospitable destination for the secretary, not after the president announced that he was moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to always contested Jerusalem. So it'll be up to Secretary Tillerson to dilute those oily waters. He'll doubtless try to do that by helping the Kingdom of Jordan deal with a 650,000-strong tide of refugees from war-torn Syria and all the difficulties those suffering people have brought with them.
Everywhere the American president looks in that deeply troubled part of the world, he finds the outlook bleak for his proposals of peace. He was quoted in the Israeli daily Israel Ha-Yom as having declared, "Right now I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace . . . And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens." Like the rest of the world. For the great deal-maker himself, the Hon. Donald J. Trump, seems to have drawn a blank this time.
Blessed are the peacemakers, the Teacher from Nazareth once declared, but these are times when they seem to be cursed, at least in the region that he traversed as an itinerant preacher. But keep the faith. Just as one never knows when it will rain on the president's parade, so there's no telling when the sun will emerge from the clouds and bring a better day. Even in the Middle East.
Editorial on 02/14/2018
Print Headline: No exit