Few reasons for optimism after Antony Blinken’s diplomatic dash
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The US’s top diplomat, Antony Blinken, has been rushing around the Middle East trying to contain an uncontrollable situation.

Israel on Friday. Jordan on Saturday. The West Bank, Iraq and Turkey on Sunday.

We encountered challenges at every stop, which made us pessimistic that much progress is being made. At the moment, the US secretary of state faces the challenge of finding a middle ground where none exists.

As part of his request for a temporary break in hostilities, Mr Blinken also encouraged Israeli leaders to release hostages – a demand that was quickly rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The next day, he met with representatives of Israel’s Arab neighbors. It was unanimously agreed that a ceasefire should be implemented immediately. Israeli war crimes are being committed, according to Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.

In the US, President Joe Biden was asked whether progress was being made toward securing humanitarian pauses.

It was striking how optimistic the president was in contrast to the mood on the ground here in the Middle East.

To emphasize the tension in the region, Mr Blinken made his Sunday stops under cover of secrecy. A convoy of armoured SUVs and vans speeding through streets cordoned off by the Palestinian Palace Guard escorted him to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

During the short helicopter ride from the Baghdad airport to the US embassy, where he met Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, the secretary and his diplomatic entourage donned body armor and helmets.