American expert: China is becoming an important economic actor throughout the Middle East - INTERVIEW
Baku Tribune presents an interview with a professor of International Relations, Hamilton College (USA) Alan Kafruny.
- China reconciled Saudi Arabia and Iran. Why was Beijing interested in this? Why did China need this? - China's diplomatic initiative towards Iran and Saudi Arabia represents an assertive response to a series of confrontational policies towards China in both the economic and military spheres that the United States has carried out in recent months, accompanied also by increasingly bellicose rhetoric. It comes on the heels of Xi Jinping's appointment of a third term, his visit to Riyadh in December, an upcoming visit to Moscow, and a planned virtual meeting with Zelensky. This initiative thus represents a major new development in Chinese foreign policy and a fundamental transformation of international relations. - In your opinion, under what conditions did China manage to achieve reconciliation between these countries? What did Beijing promise both countries in exchange for the normalization of bilateral relations? - China is a major oil importer from both Iran and Saudi Arabia, especially significant for Iran in the context of U.S. sanctions. More generally, China is becoming an important economic actor throughout the Middle East. Two Chinese firms have recently signed massive oil and gas deals with Iraq. At the same time, both Iran and Saudi Arabia have applied to join the BRICS and they will undoubtedly be supported by Beijing. - Do you think the US has finally lost influence in Saudi Arabia? - Coming on the heels of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, this represents a further defeat for U.S. diplomacy. Ever since Roosevelt's meeting with King Ibn Saud on his return from the Yalta conference, Saudi Arabia has served as a linchpin of U.S. power in the Middle East, enabling the United States to exert influence over oil markets, even if at times the relationship was strained. China's initiative was in some respects foreshadowed by Biden's failure to enlist Riyadh in increasing oil production last summer. The United States, however, does retain influence because it provides support for Saudi aircraft, a significant, long-term commitment. China is not a significant armaments' provider. The relationship has thus been weakened, but not broken. - Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia promise to be stable? Or will the normalization of relations be temporary? - Many variables come into play, including the civil war in Yemen, still a potential flash point, and also Saudi Arabia's relationship with an increasingly unstable Israeli politics. Reconciliation under Chinese patronage opens up the possibility of reviving the JCPOA, something the United States would be well-advised to support. - In your opinion, why is the United States, together with its allies, in no hurry to overthrow the regime of the mullahs in Iran? US in a wait-and-see position, waiting for the right moment? - Washington had hoped that withdrawal from the JCPOA and the resumption of sanctions would cripple Iran. While the G-7 countries were compelled to pull back as a result, Iran proved resilient and capable of maintaining significant military capabilities, not least as a result of cooperation with China and Russia, as indicated for example by its production of effective drones. While Israel under Netanyahu contemplates strikes on Iran's nuclear reactors, these are well protected and Iran has means of retaliation. At the same time, Israel has now lost its Saudi ally. All of this indicates the limits of Washington's use of military force and regime changes as the means of exerting influence. Interviewed by Samir Aliyev
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