If I were to narrow down a few discussions that were probably the most significant about the Middle East, The first would be how we, the United States, dealt with Iran, and our policy toward Iran, which included the decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, which we did in 2018. And then the maximum pressure campaign that followed, and essentially how we tried to deal with their ambitions toward a nuclear weapon and to cope with proxy forces such as the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Syria, and Lebanon, that was probably the most significant.
We got pretty close to an actual conflict there. At certain times, I'd say the second, and some near and dear to my heart because I've worked there before, would be Yemen. During my time at the Pentagon, the secretary at the time, Secretary Mattis, asked us to do a study essentially, pulling together all facets of society, whether it's economics, military, political, or humanitarian aid, had come up with a plan for Yemen, which ended up being called the Yemen steering initiative. And I think that was probably one of the things I was most proud of, and then dealing with Syria and defeating ISIS, that was from a policy perspective, obviously, in the Middle East. And that was a substantial effort, a global effort of over 80 countries that defeated ISIS and took back the territory they had dominated during their time.
Talking about countries in particular, like the UAE, it has highlighted itself. And I think deservedly so they've been very tolerant of many cultures, religions, and promoting that is a great thing for the region. They've also been a good partner when it comes to the counterterrorism effort of the United States and the rest of the world when it comes to dealing with al Qaeda and their affiliates.
They've been not only a good partner in the sense that they participated, showed up, and served in Afghanistan alongside with the lead in Yemen. But they're perfect. They have a very competent military. And as somebody who I'm a retired Marine, and I'm a retired CIA paramilitary officer, I know good armies. And I know that they have capabilities that not every other country does. So I think they've been a perfect partner for us. Regarding the counterterrorism efforts, and as you mentioned, their position on tolerance. I think it's the right one.
We have to as a country, realize that the Middle East is important and always will be a vital region. And we need to drop terms like pivoting out of our vocabulary. Because too many of my friends in the Middle East, pivoting sounds more like returning our backs. I don't think that was intended when it comes to the phrase shifting to the Far East. But that's the way it came across. And that is not what the United States should do.
The United States should be a key partner to our partners in the region, period. And it shouldn't be something that's we have a global war on terror. That's the top of the charts, and we focused on our partners in the Middle East. And as soon as we decide to hit that pivot, I don't think that's the right way to look at our position in the world or being a partner to our partners in the world. We're going to have differences.
The United States will promote democracy, and individual civil rights, as we should. But that doesn't mean we don't have a dialogue. And that doesn't mean we don't partner where it's advantageous to both countries. And I think that is something that the Biden administration fully understands. They may have missed the message upfront, but I believe they are doing their best to make sure that our partners in the region know that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Patrick Mulroy is the former United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for the Middle East, serving under Secretary James N. Mattis and Secretary Mark T. Esper. He was responsible for representing the United States Department of Defense (DoD) for defense policy and for Middle East policy in the interagency.
You can follow him on Twitter @MickMulroy