China Expands into the Levant—and Improves Its Ties to Israel’s Adversaries

April 21 2021

In 2013, Beijing formally announced its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an effort to create a network of railroads, ports, and other infrastructure spanning across Asia to Europe, facilitating trade and expanding Chinese influence. This project has included closer economic ties with Iran and the Gulf states, as well as with Turkey and the Levant. While China’s steps to expand the Belt and Road into Israel have become liabilities for the Jewish state, the Communist country is actively gaining a foothold Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey. Mordechai Chaziza and Efraim Karsh write:

China has evolved from simply an oil and gas consumer into a major economic (and to a lesser extent political) player in the Middle East. China is now the Middle East’s largest foreign investor, with its $155 billion worth of investment from 2013 to 2020 accounting for over 40 percent of the total direct foreign investment in the region during this period.

One of the main beneficiaries of this development has been the Levant, which had previously occupied a marginal place in Beijing’s energy-oriented regional involvement. Investment in Israel, to give a prominent example, has nearly doubled from $6 billion in 2005-13 to $10 billion in 2013-19. But Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey, which lack Israel’s economic and technological prowess, have also benefitted from the BRI as their location at a critical segment of the new Eurasian overland and maritime routes enabled them to integrate into China’s global economic surge, not unlike their role in the historic Silk Road.

Keenly aware of its highly limited ability to influence the military course of the war [in Syria], China allowed Russia to take the leading role in securing the survival of the Assad regime while contenting itself with extending political support to Damascus, mainly at the UN Security Council where it helped block anti-Syrian measures. . . . Beijing’s military support for the Assad regime was limited to the sale of reconnaissance drones and the deployment of a special-operations force in late 2017 to fight the reported 5,000 Chinese Uighurs who were fighting in Syria.

[A]nnual Chinese-Turkish trade, which crossed the $1 billion threshold in 2000, had grown tenfold by 2009, and the following year, Beijing and Ankara launched a “strategic cooperative relationship.” . . . No less important, to the exasperation of its NATO partners, in 2013 Turkey chose the Chinese HQ-9 air-defense missile system over the European SAMP/T and the U.S. Patriot.

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Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: China, Israel-China relations, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter