Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)If President Donald Trump was out to punish his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he's found just the thing.
Tillerson's Mideast tour: messenger without a message
Tillerson is currently on a tour of a Middle East more divided, more deadly, more dangerous than it has been in decades. Wars are raging in Syria, in Yemen, in Libya, in Egypt, and the potential for a mind-boggling array of other wars -- small, medium and large, regional and global, looms darkly on the horizon. All this at a time when the US, up to its neck in the minutiae of it all, is losing its grip.
The job of trying to sort all this out has fallen to an oil executive with no diplomatic experience leading a State Department hemorrhaging experienced staff, and to the president's 37-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a political neophyte well-versed in the murky world of Manhattan real estate, and not much else.
Tillerson's swing through the region takes him to Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. And if there was any doubt about shrinking American influence in the region, this whirlwind tour is making it abundantly clear.
His first stop, Egypt, underscored the questionable fruits of the budding bromance between Field Marshall-turned-President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and President Trump. Tillerson's host won a presidential election with a dubious 97% of the vote in 2014, and will shortly run again in another election in which he has detained or intimidated all meaningful challengers. Tillerson mumbled a few words about free and fair elections while in Cairo, but was quick to endorse Egypt's latest offensive against Islamist insurgents in the Sinai and the Western Desert.
At a time when press freedom and civil liberties are in dramatic retreat in Egypt, he made it clear that the Trump administration's priority is the almost 18-year-old and seemingly endless war on terrorism.