Behind the Scenes of My Trip to the Middle East

A Dinner Stop in Doha

As soon as votes ended Thursday, I hopped on a non-stop flight to Doha, Qatar. The Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, is a friend, and the beginning and end of the Qatar leg of the trip would be an Iftar dinner (the dinner that ends the daily fast each day of Ramadan) at his home. I landed in Doha and made quick use of an airport lounge shower to clean up and throw on a suit for dinner.

Iftar dinner in Doha with Foreign Miniter Al-Thani

Oman Loves Mystic

At 1 AM, I boarded a flight to Oman, arriving in Muscat, the capital, at 3 AM. I knew I would need some time to fight off jet lag, so I worked at the hotel in the morning and took a quick trip to the Oman National Museum at lunch. I don’t get to spend much time outside of conference rooms on these trips, but if you want to be impactful in foreign capitals, you need to know these countries and their history. So I thought an hour-long tour of the museum would help orient me.

National Park Advice from the King

Sunday evening I departed for Jordan. The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen is based in Jordan, but I was also heading there to join a large delegation of senior Biden administration officials to make the first American visit to our ally King Abdullah II since the transition. The Trump administration was, to put it kindly, rough sledding for Jordan. Trump had affection only for the oil-rich countries of the region (places where he might one day want to put up a hotel), and his decision to cut off funds for the Palestinians was particularly hurtful to Jordan (which hosts more Palestinian refugees than any other country).

The United States is Back

On Tuesday, I spent the morning doing more Yemen meetings. Lenderking had joined the large U.S. delegation in Jordan, and he and I met with the European ambassadors to Yemen (who reside in Amman) and then Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s Yemen Special Envoy, to coordinate strategy on the push for a ceasefire. Martin noted that his efforts had stalled for much of 2020, and immediately upon the election of President Biden and the U.S. decision to pursue diplomacy instead of war in Yemen, things started moving again. He was thrilled at another chance to get a peace deal, and he conveyed how Biden’s election had made all the difference.

Meeting with members of the Connecticut National Guard stationed in Jordan
Visiting a career training program for Palestinian refugees run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Amman, Jordan.

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