NAIROBI, Kenya — Growing American frustration over the war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia spilled over into an open confrontation on Monday when Ethiopian officials lashed out at Washington over new restrictions including aid cuts and a ban on some Ethiopians traveling to the United States.
The restrictions, announced by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Sunday, amount to an unusual step against a key African ally, and a pointed rebuke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose troops and allies have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities that could amount to war crimes.
Despite “significant diplomatic engagement,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement, “the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”
American visa restrictions will apply to all actors in the Tigray conflict, Mr. Blinken said, including current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, ethnic Amhara militias and Tigrayan rebels.
a statement on Monday, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry reacted with an expression of regret and what appeared to be thinly veiled threats. It accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs and trying to overshadow national elections scheduled for June 21.
And it said that Ethiopia could be “forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.”
gave $923 million, according to USAID, although the vast majority of that money was for humanitarian purposes — health care, food aid, education and democracy support — that will not be hit by the new measures.
The United States had already suspended $23 million in security aid to Ethiopia. Officials say the new measures will preclude any American arms sales to Ethiopia, although much of the country’s weapons come from Russia.
Still, there could be other impacts. Western diplomats say the United States could block international funding to Ethiopia from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund — integral to Mr. Abiy’s economic plans.
dispatched by President Biden in March, and Jeffrey Feltman, the recently appointed Horn of Africa envoy.
American officials worry that the growing chaos in Tigray could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, or jeopardize efforts to mediate a high-stakes dispute with Egypt over the massive hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile.
The growing humanitarian crisis, including the threat of a famine within months, is also driving the sense of urgency.
Those responsible for the Tigray crisis “should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community,” Mr. Blinken said. “We call on other governments to join is taking these measures.”
Simon Marks contributed reporting from Brussels.
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As a candidate, Mr. Biden had said there would be “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator’” — meaning Mr. el-Sisi, whose increasing authoritarianism has drawn widespread criticism. Though the Egyptian president was the first Arab leader to congratulate Mr. Biden after the election, Mr. Biden waited until last week to return the call.
But after that chilly start to their relationship, Egypt has sought to capitalize on the Gaza crisis to shore up its ties with the new administration. Mr. Blinken will meet Mr. el-Sisi in Cairo, providing the Egyptian leader an opportunity not only to reaffirm his nation’s the relationship with the United States but also to promote Egypt’s status as a regional power broker and leader among Arab countries.
Though that status has been fading for years as Egypt fell into domestic turmoil and wealthier Arab states asserted themselves in the region, Cairo enjoyed mostly smooth relations with Washington in recent years until the arrival of the Biden administration, which has put human rights at the center of its foreign policy strategy.
The administration, however, has not fundamentally changed the terms of the relationship with Cairo, which centers on the $1.3 billion in military aid Egypt receives each year from the United States, a historical byproduct of its agreement to make peace with Israel in 1979. The State Department approved a $197 million arms sale to Egypt in February, around the same time that Egypt arrested the cousins of an Egyptian-American dissident, Mohamed Soltan, in what Mr. Soltan said was a bid to pressure him to stop criticizing it.
The conflict also could serve to continue repairing the relationship between the United States and Jordan that had been largely shelved during the Trump administration. At least two million Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, and its Hashemite monarchy is the custodian of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam.
Mr. Blinken’s visit comes at a fraught time in Israeli politics, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heading a caretaker government that could be in its last days, after four inconclusive elections in two years, and with no clear picture of what lies ahead.
Experts in the region said Mr. Blinken would have to maneuver carefully between expressing his administration’s unwavering support for Israel and its security while not handing over any gifts that could be perceived as intervening in Mr. Netanyahu’s domestic predicament.
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Israel, a small country surrounded by adversaries and locked in conflict with the Palestinians, depends absolutely on American diplomatic and military support. By giving it, the United States safeguards Israel and wields significant leverage over its actions.
That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. For decades, it was true: Israeli leaders and voters alike treated Washington as essential to their country’s survival.
But that dependence may be ending. While Israel still benefits greatly from American assistance, security experts and political analysts say that the country has quietly cultivated, and may have achieved, effective autonomy from the United States.
“We’re seeing much more Israeli independence,” said Vipin Narang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist who has studied Israeli strategy.
nearly $4 billion, it was closer to one percent.
Washington underscored its own declining relevance to the conflict last week, calling for a cease-fire only after an Egyptian-brokered agreement was nearing completion, and which Israeli leaders said they agreed to because they had completed their military objectives in a ten day conflict with Gaza. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken will visit the region this week, though he said he does not intend to restart formal Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Democrats and left-wing activists, outraged over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and bombing of Gaza, are challenging Washington’s long-held consensus on Israel.
Yet significant, if shrinking, numbers of Americans express support for Israel, and Democratic politicians have resisted their voters’ growing support for the Palestinians.
The United States still has leverage, as it does with every country where it provides arms and diplomatic support. But that leverage may be declining past the point at which Israel is able and willing to do as it wishes, bipartisan consensus or not.
Steps Toward Self-Sufficiency
When Americans think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many still picture the period known as the Second Intifada, when Israeli tanks crashed through Palestinian towns and Palestinian bombs detonated in Israeli cafes and buses.
But that was 15 years ago. Since then, Israel has re-engineered the conflict in ways that Israeli voters and leaders largely find bearable.
Violence against Israelis in the occupied West Bank is rarer and lower-level, rarer still in Israel proper. Though fighting has erupted several times between Israel and Gaza-based groups, Israeli forces have succeeded in pushing the burden overwhelmingly on Gazans. Conflict deaths, once three-to-one Palestinian-to-Israeli, are now closer to 20-to-one.
At the same time, Israeli disaffection with the peace process has left many feeling that periodic fighting is the least bad option. The occupation, though a crushing and ever-present force for Palestinians, is, on most days and for most Jewish Israelis, ignorable.
missile defense technology that is made and maintained largely at home — a feat that hints at the tenacity of Israel’s drive for self-sufficiency.
“If you had told me five years ago,” said Mr. Narang, the M.I.T. scholar, “that the Israelis would have a layered missile defense system against short-range rockets and short-range ballistic missiles, and it was going to be 90 percent effective, I would have said, ‘I would love what you’re smoking.’”
mixed, and tend starkly negative in Muslim-majority societies, Israel has cultivated ties in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Even nearby Arab states, such as Jordan and Egypt, once among its greatest enemies, now seek peace, while others have eased hostilities. Last year, the so-called Abraham Accords, brokered under President Trump, saw Israel normalize ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Israel subsequently normalized ties with Morocco and reached a diplomatic agreement with Sudan.
“We used to talk about a diplomatic tsunami that was on its way. But it never materialized,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and pollster.
polls show, and growing numbers consider it a low priority, given a status quo that much of the Israeli public sees as tolerable.
“That changes the nature of the relationship to the U.S.,” Ms. Mizrahi-Arnaud said.
Because Israeli leaders no longer feel domestic pressure to engage in the peace process, which runs through Washington, they do not need to persuade the Americans that they are seeking peace in good faith.
If anything, leaders face declining pressure to please the Americans and rising demands to defy them with policies like expanding settlements in the West Bank, even annexing it outright.
Israel is hardly the first small state to seek independence from a great-power patron. But this case is unusual in one way: It was the Americans who built up Israel’s military and diplomatic independence, eroding their own influence.
Now, after nearly 50 years of not quite wielding that leverage to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it may soon be gone for good, if it isn’t already.
“Israel feels that they can get away with more,” said Ms. Mizrahi-Arnaud, adding, to underscore her point, “When exactly is the last time that the United States pressured Israel?”
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A senior American diplomat is headed to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to urge de-escalation and to bring calm,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday amid mounting violence.
Speaking at the State Department in Washington, Mr. Blinken repeatedly affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs the Gaza Strip.
“There is, first, a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets, in fact, targeting civilians, and Israel’s response, defending itself,” Mr. Blinken said.
But he also said Israel “has an extra burden” to try to prevent civilian deaths, noting that Palestinian children have been killed in Israeli strikes.
Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to meet with leaders from both sides in coming days. Mr. Amr was expected to depart Washington later Wednesday for the region.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III also offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s right to self-defense during a conversation earlier Wednesday with Israel’s defense chief, Benny Gantz.
A readout of their talk, issued by John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Austin had condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas, and urged calm among all parties, but did not mention the matter of casualties among Palestinian civilians.
President Biden took office this year with little interest in pursuing an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement, given the failure by previous presidents from both parties to foster a lasting accord. But the latest outbreak of violence has prompted growing calls from within the Democratic Party for Mr. Biden to play a more active role.
later said he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to reinforce his message. “It’s vital now to de-escalate,” Mr. Blinken said on Twitter.
Michael Crowley contributed reporting.
President Biden and Iran’s leaders say they share a common goal: They both want to re-enter the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump scrapped three years ago, restoring the bargain that Iran would keep sharp limits on its production of nuclear fuel in return for a lifting of sanctions that have choked its economy.
But after five weeks of shadow boxing in Vienna hotel rooms — where the two sides pass notes through European intermediaries — it has become clear that the old deal, strictly defined, does not work for either of them anymore, at least in the long run.
The Iranians are demanding that they be allowed to keep the advanced nuclear-fuel production equipment they installed after Mr. Trump abandoned the pact, and integration with the world financial system beyond what they achieved under the 2015 agreement.
The Biden administration, for its part, says that restoring the old deal is just a steppingstone. It must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting missiles and support of terrorism — and making it impossible for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb for decades. The Iranians say no way.
financial restrictions that go beyond that deal — mostly involving conducting transactions with Western banks — because it would create what one senior administration official called a “ripe circumstance for a negotiation on a follow-on agreement.”
The Iranians refuse to even discuss a larger agreement. And American officials say it is not yet clear that Iran really wants to restore the old deal, which is derided by powerful hard-liners at home.
campaign of sabotage and assassination to cripple the Iranian program — and perhaps the negotiations themselves. So it was notable that the director of the Mossad, who has led those operations, was recently ushered into the White House for a meeting with the president. After an explosion at the Natanz nuclear plant last month, Mr. Biden told aides that the timing — just as the United States was beginning to make progress on restoring the accord — was suspicious.
The split with Israel remains. In the meetings in Washington last week — which included Mr. Blinken; the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns; and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan — Israeli officials argued that the United States was naïve to return to the old accord, which they think preserved a nascent nuclear breakout capability.
Mr. Biden’s top aides argued that three years of “maximum pressure” on Iran engineered by Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had failed to break its government or limit its support of terrorism. In fact, it had prompted nuclear breakout.
told the BBC.
Iran wants more sanctions lifted than the United States judges consistent with the deal, while insisting on keeping more of its nuclear infrastructure — in particular advanced centrifuges — than that deal permits. Instead, Iran argues that the International Atomic Energy Agency should simply inspect the new centrifuges, a position that is unacceptable to Washington.
While the talks continue, Iran is keeping up the pressure by adding to its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and the equipment to make it, all in violation of the deal.
Both Iran and the United States are working under delicate political constraints. Even as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has supported the Vienna talks, Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif are mocked by powerful conservatives who do not trust Washington and who expect to capture the presidency.
For his part, Mr. Biden must contend with a Congress that is highly skeptical of a deal and largely sympathetic to the concerns of Israel.
increasing enrichment to just short of bomb grade in small quantities and barring international inspectors from key sites in late February — Mr. Zarif insists that these moves are easily reversible.
American intelligence officials say that while Iran has bolstered its production of nuclear material — and is probably only months from being able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one or two bombs — even now, there is no evidence Iran is advancing on its work to fashion a warhead. “We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a report last month.
scandal over Mr. Zarif, whose criticism of internal decision-making recently leaked, apparently in an effort to damage his reputation and any chance he had to run for the presidency.
Ayatollah Khamenei refuted the criticism without naming Mr. Zarif, but he said the comments were “a big mistake that must not be made by an official of the Islamic Republic” and “a repetition of what Iran’s enemies say.”
At the same time, by downplaying Mr. Zarif’s role, the supreme leader reaffirmed his support for the talks while also sheltering them from criticism by hard-liners, said Ellie Geranmayeh of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and David E. Sanger from Washington. Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, meeting with counterparts from both China and Russia on Friday, said that the United States would “push back forcefully” against breakers of international rules, even as he acknowledged his own country’s violations under the Trump administration.
Mr. Blinken’s counterparts, Foreign Ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia, took their own diplomatic swipes at the United States, accusing it of hypocrisy and of defining international rules in terms designed to assert Western dominance in the world.
The exchanges came at a United Nations Security Council meeting, convened by China and held virtually via videoconference link, on the theme of multilateral cooperation against the pandemic, global warming and other common threats.
It was in some ways a rematch between Mr. Blinken and Mr. Wang, who was part of a top Chinese delegation that brusquely lectured the United States at a meeting in Alaska two months ago. That unscripted confrontation was regarded heroically in China, where the government has stoked rising anti-Americanism and nationalism.
“defending democratic values and open societies” — a signal of the Biden administration’s intent to challenge China and Russia on human rights, disinformation and other issues that had been de-emphasized or ignored by the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
In another clear signal from the Biden administration, Mr. Blinken also visited Ukraine, where he pledged support for its fight against a Russian-backed insurgency that has claimed 13,000 lives since 2014.
Mr. Blinken asserted in his Security Council remarks that the United Nations remained a critical force for good in the world, responsible since its founding at the end of World War II for the most peaceful and prosperous era in modern history, but was now under severe threat.
“Nationalism is resurgent, repression is rising, rivalries among countries are deepening — and attacks against the rules-based order are intensifying,” Mr. Blinken said. “Some question whether multilateral cooperation is still possible. The United States believes it is not only possible, but imperative.”
seeking to rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“We’re also taking steps, with great humility, to address the inequities and injustices in our own democracy,” he said. “We do so openly and transparently, for people around the world to see. Even when it’s ugly. Even when it’s painful.”
Mr. Wang, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency for May, sought to depict China as a responsible global citizen that adhered to international law. Without mentioning the United States by name, he chided countries that he said had defined international rules as a “patent or privilege of the few.”
economic sanctions that the United States and European Union have imposed on Russia and others they disagree with, which Mr. Lavrov said were designed to “take opponents out of the game.”