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

The Region and the Final Touches

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United States have announced they are close to putting the "final touches" on a long-awaited bilateral security agreement. It is certainly important for both countries and will doubtlessly have multi-faceted implications for the region.

At the World Economic Forum held in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the United States were close to finalizing the bilateral agreement. He added that "most of the work has already been completed. We have outlined what we believe needs to happen on the Palestinian front."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a similar answer to the same question. "We have done intense work together over the last few months. In fact, well before October 7, the {Palestinian issue} is what we were focused on," he said. He added then that he believes it is "very close to completion".

Both answers addressed the "Palestinian part." However, it remains unclear whether these "final touches" concern Saudi-American issues alone or Palestinian issues as well. The details of this matter are not clear at this time.

What is clear is that the entire region is close to putting the "final touches" on matters concerning the war on Gaza. Today, Qatar, which has been mediating negotiations, says that it is losing patience with both parties, Israel and Hamas. Egypt has returned to the forefront after the American President phoned his Egyptian counterpart.

Today, the United States is rushing to protect Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom it fears could be indicted by the International Criminal Court. Netanyahu, in turn, has suggested that there will be no ceasefire if the ICC were to issue an arrest warrant against him.

At the same time, the decision of whether to invade Rafah continues to hold Netanyahu "captive." It is as though he were the one under siege, not Hamas. Indeed, invading Rafah would complicate matters internationally, as does the current impasse that has hindered a truce, which would threaten the implosion of his extremist coalition government in Israel and his political future.

As for Hamas, it is not faring any better than Netanyahu. We now find it trying to improve ties with the Palestinian Authority in the hope of polishing its image and retaining power in Gaza. We have also heard the question of leaving Qatar being discussed publicly, and Hamas may also be desperately searching for an alternative.

The conspicuous silence of Iran speaks volumes. It has been quiet since the Israeli strike on Isfahan launched in retaliation to Iran's symbolic attack on Israel. Tehran's main objectives now are ensuring that Israel does not strike Hezbollah and trying to secure a seat at the table of the upcoming negotiations.

Accordingly, the Houthis have reduced their attacks in the Red Sea. Iran has imposed restraint on the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, whose officials have reiterated, several times, that they remain committed to the truce they had announced and will not be targeting American bases in their vicinity, specifically in Syria.

All this tells us, and indeed shows, that the entire region is on the verge of applying "final touches" against the backdrop of the war in Gaza. This could either lead to an agreement that leaves some either falling off their high horse or running to the edge of the abyss. In both cases, they will pay a difficult price.

Of course, nothing is more valuable or important than the human cost. Thus, the "final touches" are eminent, and they will not all be wicked.