Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Washington and the ‘Grey Area’

Since Joe Biden began his term as president, his administration's only strategy for the Middle East has been not to have a clear strategy. While it was said that its strategy was to withdraw from the region, it has no clear strategy for doing so, and the proof is the manner in which the US pulled out of Afghanistan.

The Biden administration had no clear strategy for dealing with allies, Iran, or the Houthis. Indeed, it has committed one blunder after another in Yemen and has no clear vision for resolving the conflict in the Middle East, showing no enthusiasm for the Abraham Accords because they were orchestrated by the previous president, Donald Trump.

However, clashing with OPEC+ and visiting Jeddah following the firm stance taken by Saudi Arabia, the administration began to reconsider. Then came the events of October 7, which showed the administration that its approach was comparable to that of a student hoping to pass an exam by cramming the night before after having wasted the entire school year.

Brian Hook shared an accurate assessment of this administration, which is now entering election mode. In an interview with my colleague Rana Abtar for this newspaper, the former US Special Envoy for Iran said that it is in a "gray area."

The truth is that the administration is responsible for the position it finds itself in, which is the result of its lack of a clear strategy or vision. Hook accused the Biden administration of not devising a strategy in this "inflamed" region. "These flames are fanned in the United States," he added.

It has fanned the flames by marginalizing its partners in the region, creating a vacuum that Iran and ISIS have exploited. He also accused Washington of losing its capacity to deter Tehran because it plays "by Iran's rules," and committing several mistakes, including the decision to remove the Houthis from its terror list.

Removing the Houthis from the list epitomizes Washington's confusion. The administration then returned to Yemen, not as a peacekeeper, but to bomb the Houthis because of their attacks on maritime navigation and disruption of global supply lines, which have hurt the global economy.

Hook also criticized the administration for failing to present a clear plan for peace in the Middle East. The US Secretary of State now says that Washington has a peace plan, but we haven't seen the details or the vision behind this plan.

Hook accused the Biden administration of straining relations with Benjamin Netanyahu because of "personal" tensions, saying that the Biden team "dislikes" Netanyahu. "We have made our foreign policy disputes personal," and this is not only true for Netanyahu, as the administration has approached many other places in the region.

Ironically, the Biden administration, along with the Democrats, has a better relationship with Saudi Arabia today. It has relied on Riyadh to ensure stability in the region after lengthy campaigns. Meanwhile, there are real tensions between them and Israel, especially Netanyahu, who was shaken by the Hamas operation of October 7.

This state of affairs demonstrates that the US administration does not know how to deal with allies or adversaries like Iran, as it has no strategy or vision, and this has left the entire region in a "gray area."

In conclusion, as explosive crises wreak havoc on the region, they also create opportunities. So, is there enough time? Can Washington end the Gaza war, restrain Netanyahu, and set the peace process in motion? I doubt it, but anything is possible.