Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

America is Offering its Allies to China

America is Offering its Allies to China

Tuesday, 21 December, 2021 - 11:30

The Middle East will not witness another Sadat moment. Washington will not wake up to a sudden shift of its Middle Eastern allies from the Western camp to the Chinese side, just as Egypt moved with the late President Anwar Sadat from the East to the West camp.


However, the American “obsession” about heading east - which began with former President Barack Obama, continued during the term of ex-President Donald Trump and gained intensity under President Joe Biden - produced political tracks in the Middle East and among Washington’s allies in particular. Consequently, profound changes in the positioning and calculations of these capitals seem to be occurring daily, and the transformation is taking place slowly but surely.


The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the way it was carried out constituted a worrying message to all those concerned with the relationship with Washington, allies and adversaries alike. The step was placed in the context of abandoning files that distract America and hinder its focus on confronting China.


In addition, all of Washington’s allies, from the Gulf to Israel to Europe, felt the consequences of the “obsession” with confronting China, which is expanding in the entire areas of traditional American influence.


Much has been written and will be written about the “deficiencies” of the Chinese model, and that the next century is American par excellence… that China’s expansionist dreams are incompatible with Beijing’s weak financial solvency, and that influence alone is not sufficient for China to have the same cosmic fascination with the American model and its multiple soft powers... All of this is true, or has a good share of veracity.


However, what I call the American “obsession” with China, coupled with the messages about the US withdrawal from the Middle East, is paving the way for more rapprochement between Washington’s classic allies and Beijing.


In more direct terms, if “obsession” with China means America facing Beijing’s influence, then whoever seeks such confrontation should guarantee his Middle Eastern allies on his side, not the other way around.


China, in its new version, is not the leading country of an alliance that includes Iran, North Korea and Russia.


China has become a major trading partner for several countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel, while Iran does not appear on the list of the first five trading allies. Beijing is also expanding strategic partnerships with these countries in the sectors of infrastructure, technology and armament.


China occupies a strategic position in Saudi Vision 2030, through which Prince Mohammed bin Salman is implementing an ambitious plan to diversify the economy and free it from dependence on oil.


Moreover, the personal relations, as revealed by The Wall Street Journal, between the young prince and the Chinese president are characterized by “harmony”, in a world where the personal factor plays many roles.


Amid the campaigns against the Kingdom, the visit of the Crown Prince to Beijing in 2019 was remarkable, and saw bilateral talks with President Xi and an oil agreement worth USD10 billion.


As for the Israeli-Chinese relations, for example, they have raised public disagreements between Washington and Tel Aviv, even amid harmonious relations between the two predecessors, Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump.


Similar divergences emerged in correspondence and meetings between Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his US counterpart Anthony Blinken.


A Chinese company runs the Haifa port, and another builds the Red Line on the Tel Aviv Light rail. The Chinese are also participating in the Sorek desalination project, as well as in other infrastructure and transportation developments.


Similarly, concerns with Chinese backgrounds have recently emerged between the US and the UAE.


At the bottom of Abu Dhabi’s threat to withdraw from the F-35 deal, which was revealed by The Wall Street Journal, lies “sovereignty” differences caused by US conditions on the UAE to reduce dependence on 5G technology through the Chinese Huawei, under the pretext that the network may be a back door to Chinese spying on the secrets of the US military industry.


In the same period, the political and diplomatic advisor to the President of the UAE, Dr. Anwar Gargash, confirmed that his country’s authorities had suspended work on a Chinese facility, after pressure from the United States, due to Washington’s suspicions that Beijing wanted to use the port for military purposes, which Abu Dhabi categorically denied.


Politically, bets are growing on China to assume a more active role on Iran, the most important file for Washington’s allies in the region. In this context, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy said in a recent lecture that China was the only player, who can be efficient in making progress in the Vienna Talks.


“I will not be exaggerating if I say that the Iranian economy is mainly dependent on China. The influence of China on Iran’s politics is perhaps the greatest influence of a foreign power on Iran. Never, in history, has China had the opportunity to make a decisive contribution to world stability as it has today in Vienna,” he added.


Many analysts agree with Halevy’s assessment.


Leaving the Middle East to confront China provides, in fact, an opportunity for Beijing. As for the argument about America’s liberation from dependence on Middle Eastern oil, it holds a great degree of naivety.


The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the extent of the imbalance in the production chains in the world due to their concentration in China.


The US depends on China’s factories, which in turn operate with Middle Eastern oil, especially the oil of Washington’s allies. This means that America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil may be greater than ever, as confirmed by a number of senior strategists in the US capital.


Other opinion articles

Editor Picks

Multimedia