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

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times