As Secretary of State John Kerry focuses on his ailing wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, he remains at the heart of several active diplomatic efforts around the world.
Mrs. Heinz Kerry, the heiress to the Heinz fortune and chair of the Heinz Endowments, has been hospitalized in Boston since becoming ill Sunday at the family home in Nantucket, only days after Mr. Kerry returned from the Middle East.
The secretary has been devoting much attention and travel to the Middle East, trying to renew talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Israelis, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seem to be making a point of disinterest in such talks, in spite of Mr. Kerry's ministrations and $3 billion in annual U.S. aid. The Palestinians remain bogged down in their own internal struggles, between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, and, as well, in vigorous political competition inside Fatah, which has had two consecutive prime ministers resign.
One of his other efforts is a joint move with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to bring the parties in the Syrian civil war to talks in Geneva. Mr. Lavrov was to bring the Bashar Assad regime; Mr. Kerry, the Syrian opposition. The Assad regime is becoming more difficult to persuade to negotiate as its military position in the war improves. The Syrian opposition remains splintered, including radical Islamists as well as tame exiles. This one can slip off the rails and may already have done so absent active attention, including by Mr. Kerry.
Another tricky negotiation, which appears to be stalled, is one supposed to take place between the Taliban, the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai and U.S. representatives. Mr. Kerry has put direct negotiations in the hands of a very capable envoy, James F. Dobbins, but is watching closely, given their critical importance if the Afghan war is to reach an acceptable close.
Finally, the secretary has to be looking over his shoulder to see if the election of a new Iranian president, Hassan Rowhani, can lead to the beginning of a more communicative relationship between Washington and Tehran.
Mr. Kerry must be allowed to put his wife's health at the top of his agenda, but he is bound to be preoccupied by the nation's critical negotiations.