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

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela