China’s Offer to Send Troops to Syria Threatens U.S. Interests

In the past several years, China has gradually sought to expand its influence in East Asia and the Pacific and undermine the American-led order in the region. But, writes Joel Sonkin, it is also turning its attentions farther afield:

Indeed, Beijing has been busy actively pursuing its much-discussed “Belt and Road” initiative to invest in infrastructure linking China by both land and sea to markets in Asia and Europe. As part of these efforts, President Xi Jinping made a visit in July to the United Arab Emirates to sign a host of financial and trade agreements. . . .

Just across the Arabian Peninsula, in what would be a key component of China’s sea route, Beijing established in 2017 its first overseas military base in Djibouti. This small African country sits at one of the most important maritime locations in the world: the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, the key chokepoint connecting Asia and Europe. Ships bound for Europe pass through the narrow waterway between Djibouti and the southern tip of Yemen into the Red Sea and continue through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean. In short, Djibouti is poised to serve as a launchpad for China to project its power between Europe and Asia, i.e. the Middle East and North Africa. . . .

Finally, in what would be perhaps Beijing’s most audacious move yet, it was reported this past week that the Chinese ambassador to Syria offered his country’s assistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The ambassador said that China is willing to participate “in some way alongside the Syrian army,” as it looks to finish off the Sunni opposition. . . .

The situation [in Syria] was made drastically more difficult when the U.S. allowed one of its fiercest competitors, Russia, to intervene on behalf of the Assad regime. But the [effect of the] potential entrance of America’s other ostensible global competitor into the Syrian arena is hard to fathom. A Chinese presence in the region . . . is unprecedented, and would bring the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies into uncharted waters. . . . [I]t is not too soon for the Trump administration to pursue vigorously a policy of preventing China from gaining a foothold in the Middle East.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: China, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority