How to Counter Chinese Influence in the Persian Gulf

July 29 2022

Since the Obama administration, those concerned by the rise of China have urged the United States to “pivot to Asia,” arguing implicitly or explicitly that American foreign policy is too focused on Europe or the Middle East. But, as Louis Dugit-Gros writes, such a claim entirely misunderstands Beijing’s ambitions:

In reality, the Chinese strategy is global, and the methods it applies in the Indo-Pacific are being used in similar fashion elsewhere, including the [Persian] Gulf. . . . In recent years, Beijing has increasingly set its sights on three key waterways surrounding the Arabian Peninsula: the Suez Canal, the Bab al-Mandab Strait [which separates Yemen from Africa, and controls access to the Suez Canal and the Israeli port of Eilat], and the Strait of Hormuz, [which separates the Gulf from the Indian Ocean]. China could replicate its existing infiltration model there more directly than one might imagine.

The case of the United Arab Emirates is particularly revealing. In addition to reaching trade agreements with Beijing and hiring the Chinese telecom company Huawei to provide domestic network services, Abu Dhabi has acquired Chinese-made military drones and Hongdu L-15 training aircraft. Joint Chinese and Emirati efforts are slowly turning the UAE into a hub for artificial-intelligence advances. This substantial cooperation is cause for concern even if one leaves aside reports that Beijing is secretly building a naval facility north of Abu Dhabi. Emirati authorities have denied any agreement to host such a base and stated they did not believe the facility was meant for military purposes.

Despite Gulf leaders’ preference for multipolarity, the growing pace and scope of China’s influence in the region still call for significant action to keep these countries anchored in the West. . . . Given the significant European interests at stake in the region, the EU could be a significant partner in formulating and implementing this response.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: China, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Persian Gulf, U.S. Foreign policy, United Arab Emirates

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy