Source: Jose Nino
Yossie Melman highlighted an interesting development taking place in the Middle East in an article for Haaretz on August 13, 2020.
Since the failed Iraq War invasion, the balance of power in the Middle East has shifted dramatically and has effectively made Iran more powerful.
Melman notes that there is another game-changing aspect in Middle Eastern politics — the rise of China.
China is courting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, while making sure to flex its muscles on the rest of the region.
Due to the pivot to East Asia, the Trump administration has shifted its focus away from the Middle East. Additionally, less need for oil from Arab countries means that the U.S. does not need to maintain resources there.
Now, countries such as Russia and China are beginning to fill in the vacuum that the U.S. left after its series of interventions in the region.
Back in June, Iran signed off on a draft agreement for a 25-year strategic partnership with China on economic and security issues, which totals about $600 billion. Per this agreement, Iran plans on selling oil to China at a discount. Melman notes that in exchange, Iran will “receive priority for Chinese investments in initiatives involving banking, transportation, energy, communications and technology.” Additionally, Russia is crafting a similar multi-decade treaty with Iran.
Melman added the following concerns for Israel:
What should perhaps worry Israel most of all is the Chinese-Iranian plan to form a joint commission for developing weapons and scientific collaborations, including in cyberwarfare, as part of a Chinese move to step up its intelligence and military presence in the entire Middle East, including in Israel. Further evidence of its aspirations is the military exercise it held in the Indian Ocean in late 2019 with the Russian and Iranian navies..
However, on the Saudi Arabian front, Melman believes that Israel should be worried.
Although Saudi Arabia and Israel have become partners of convenience due to the rise of Iran as a potential geopolitical hegemon in the Middle East, there is some reason to believe that Saudi Arabia may take extra measures in order to contain Iran. That is, by acquiring nuclear technology.
And it may do so through its relationship with China. With the likelihood that Israel and the U.S. won’t do enough to contain Iran, Saudi may be forced to tap into its relationship with China to provide defense against potential Iranian aggression.
A recent report from the Wall Street Journal highlighted how Saudi Arabia possesses a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from the uranium ore mines in the territory. Furthermore, China assisted Saudi Arabia with this technology. Several years ago, Saudi Arabia declared that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it will respond in kind.
Additionally, if the U.S, won’t build nuclear power reactors for the Saudis, Russia or China will gladly do the job. Melman also observes that as Saudi Arabia’s “oil reserves dwindle, it’s only natural for Saudi Arabia to want to diversify its energy sources and build nuclear reactors.” China has previously sold Saudi Arabia long-range missiles in the past.
China’s willingness to engage with two countries that rival each other (Iran and Saudi Arabia) demonstrates its superpower aspirations. This means that Israel, who is an ally of the U.S., will have to pick a side between either the U.S. or China. As far as the U.S. is concerned, its foreign policy will need to become smarter and less reliant on boneheaded nation-building schemes that create power vacuums and new enemies. It also must take China more seriously by decoupling trade with the country and limiting migration from China as much as possible, given the country’s use of immigration as a way to perform large-scale corporate espionage.
Not addressing the China question in a sober matter, could have negative repercussions on a global scale.