Tillerson launches personal diplomacy in Persian Gulf dispute – Washington Post

After weeks of public statements and private phone calls with no apparent result, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided to personally intervene in the ongoing Persian Gulf dispute that has threatened U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Middle East.

Tillerson will travel late Monday to Kuwait, where its government has unsuccessfully tried to mediate between Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries that have blockaded and broken relations with the tiny, energy-rich nation of Qatar, home to the largest U.S. military base in the region.

He plans to spend the week talking to leaders of the warring gulf capitals, receiving them in Kuwait or shuttling among regional capitals, according to senior U.S. officials, who cautioned that a firm schedule is not yet set.

Tillerson’s first foray into high-stakes crisis negotiation comes as his stewardship of the State Department has been questioned in Congress, the White House and within the Department itself.

Senior White House officials have complained that he has walled himself off behind a handful of senior aides and takes neither their phone calls nor their recommendations. Lawmakers have asked what he intends to do about President Trump’s proposal to slash State’s budget by nearly a third, and made clear they will not permit it.

Scores of high-level jobs and ambassadorships remain unfilled as the secretary has opted to review the structure of the entire organization and pare back the overall workforce before making new appointments.

According to an outside survey commissioned by Tillerson and completed last month, many of his own staffers agree that the department does not foster innovation and is too big. Many of the 35,000 who participated described a system hampered by layers of bureaucracy, including dozens of special-envoy offices created to serve temporal needs and allowed to continue in existence long after those needs have disappeared.

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