Iraq Is Becoming China’s Newest Client in the Middle East

After Russia and Pakistan, Iraq has received the largest amount of Chinese energy investment in all of Eurasia. Beijing is now in the process of turning the country into a major hub of its Belt and Road Initiative, a series of transportation and infrastructure projects that aims to create a continuous chain of ports, railways, and power plants running across the continent. Ksenia Svetlova writes:

Nowadays China is involved in the building of al-Khairat heavy oil power plant near Karbala [in central Iraq]. It took the promise to finance construction of 1,000 schools (and some 7,000 schools in the future) in return for oil products to secure the al-Khairat deal. China’s state company also won the contract to develop the Mansuriya gas field and there is no shortage of other industrial and civil projects.

In 2008, the China National Petroleum Corporation signed a huge production deal with the Iraqi government and became the first foreign firm to do so since the war. In 2013, China bought almost half of Iraqi oil production. During these years Iraq acquired Chinese drones to fight Islamic state, supported the Hong Kong national security law at the UN and defended China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.

China is slowly but surely building its position in the Middle East and that this new reality will affect the global power competition worldwide.

Last year, Tehran and Beijing also signed a major cooperation agreement. Svetlova suggests that China may see Iraq as a safer investment, or more reliable supplier of energy, than Iran. But given the Islamic Republic’s ever-increasing influence over its western neighbor, there is also a possibility that Tehran has itself encouraged the investment in Iraq.

Read more at Media Line

More about: China, Iraq, Middle East

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy