US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has launched another round of shuttle diplomacy to contain the fighting in the Middle East. He arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday to rally support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Blinken is making his fifth visit to the region since Hamas attacked Israel four months ago. He wants to free the hostages kidnapped by the militants and reach a deal to end the fighting in Gaza. At the same time, he wants to reassure those he is meeting with that US forces do not want to provoke a wider war.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Blinken over several hours. Saudi leaders have been speaking with their regional counterparts and say they are focused on "finding the path to de-escalation." They have said they are willing to normalize ties with Israel. They, too, want a ceasefire and what they call a "credible process" toward Palestinian autonomy.
Blinken broached the attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen on ships in and around the Red Sea. The Houthis say they are demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians by targeting vessels they say support Israel. Over the weekend, US and British forces hit more than 30 Houthi positions in what they call "self-defense."
Militants with another group backed by Iran, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, claimed responsibility for a drone strike on Sunday on a US base in Syria. Since October, they and others have launched more than 160 attacks on American targets.
US President Joe Biden directed his troops to begin a first round of retaliatory strikes on Friday. His aides say that is not "the end of it."