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.

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

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