Senior US officials make quiet stops in Iraq, Jordan
US President Joe Biden’s top White House adviser on the Middle East is in the region as part of a trip to patch up widening rifts between traditional allies of Washington.
Brett McGurk, the White House National Security Council’s Middle East policy coordinator, has made stops in Iraq and Jordan over the last 24 hours, according to sources familiar with his travel.
He is also expected to head the delegation to Israel in the coming days.
Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court said that McGurk met with King Abdullah II to discuss “means of enhancing strategic partnership” between Washington and Amman.
The state-run Petra news agency reported that McGurk met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi. Amos Hochstein, Biden’s special coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security, was also in the meeting.
Hochstein had already been in the region after taking part in the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi.
Petra reported that the talks between the American officials and Safadi tackled regional issues, including in Palestine and Syria, the fight against terrorism, and support for Iraq and Lebanon.
“Safadi underlined Washington’s central and leading role in efforts to breathe new life into the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to solve the conflict on the basis of the two-state solution and in line with the international law and approved references,” Petra said.
Al Arabiya English has reached out to the White House for comment.
Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said the US officials were in Amman as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to get Jordan to join the Negev Forum and concerns over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
US lauds progress at Negev Forum, hopes Palestine, Jordan will join
Abdullah is expected to visit Washington in the coming months.
Last week, around 150 officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates attended the American-led Negev Forum summit, which the Biden administration created as it looks to continue the progress made by the Trump administration on peace efforts between Israel and its neighbors.
And although the above countries have normalized ties with Israel, along with Jordan, Amman refuses to participate in the forum as long as the Palestinians are omitted.
But Jordan’s king also raised eyebrows in a recent interview in which he warned of severe consequences if the new far-right Israeli government continues its provocative policies in al-Aqsa, Slim said.
In last month’s interview with CNN, Abdullah said there were concerns about a “next intifada,” warning that this could lead to a complete breakdown of law and order.
In Iraq, McGurk reportedly met with Kurdish figures, including President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani, and other officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Tensions have been on the rise between the KDP and PUK, especially after last year’s assassination of an intelligence officer with ties to both parties.
The US has also been concerned about the deteriorating ties between the Kurdish sides, its negative impact on the fight against ISIS, as well as the ability of Iran to capitalize on these tensions and spread influence.
“Only the US is an acceptable mediator to both Kurdish parties and can help prevent the political tensions between them from turning violent,” Slim told Al Arabiya English.
Later Monday, McGurk and Hochstein were set to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. Over the weekend, Sudani told the Wall Street Journal that he favored the continued presence of American troops in the country.