How to Counter Chinese Influence in the Persian Gulf

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


Iran Brings Its War on Israel and the U.S. to the High Seas

On Sunday, the Tehran-backed Houthi guerrillas, who have managed to control much of Yemen, attacked an American warship and three British commercial vessels in the Red Sea. This comes on the heels of a series of maritime attacks on targets loosely connected to Israel and the U.S., documented in the article below by Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg. They explain that Washington must respond far more forcefully than it has been:

President Biden refuses to add the Houthis back to the official U.S. terror list—a status he revoked shortly after taking office. And [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei keeps driving toward a weapon of mass destruction with the UN’s nuclear watchdog warning that Iran is increasing its production of high-enriched uranium while stonewalling inspectors.

Refreezing all cash made available to Iran over the last few months and cracking down on Iranian oil shipments to China are the easy first steps. Senators can force Biden’s hand on both counts by voting on two bills that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Next comes the reestablishment of U.S. military deterrence. America must defend itself and regional allies against any attempt by Iran to retaliate—a reassurance Riyadh and Abu Dhabi [also] need, given the potential for Tehran to break its de-escalation pact with the Gulf Arab states. By striking Iranian and Houthi targets, Biden would advance the cause of Middle East peace.  . . . Tehran will keep attacking Americans and U.S. allies unless and until he flashes American steel.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen