The resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, facilitated by China, appears to represent a turning point in Middle Eastern politics, rearranging the power dynamics of the region after decades of stagnation.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the United States, which had been involved in peace negotiations in the region for the better part of a century, is now more focused on Ukraine and Asia, but the pact shows that the countries in the region are willing to move beyond rivalries that seemed permanent and find new solutions on their own.
Although it has traditionally played a subordinate role in Middle Eastern affairs, China has recently moved forward to fill the hole by convening negotiations in Beijing and announcing the agreement on Friday. The significance of China’s achievement, according to one analyst, much outweighs that of President Biden’s initiatives. Currently, “we have no relations,” said Amy Hawthorne of the Washington, DC-based charity Project on Middle East Democracy, when asked if the United States could have mediated a settlement with Iran. In a broader sense, though, China’s accomplishment puts it in a different diplomatic level than the United States has been in since Biden took office.
After lobbying Saudi Arabia, Israel is excluded as well; as the United States diminishes its engagement, friends have grown anxious about security promises offered in the past, as reported by the Journal. Some analysts and Biden aides warn against overstating the significance of the accord, which at its core just promises to reopen embassies that have been closed since 2016. They claim it’s a baby step toward calming things down.
However, “China doesn’t have the capacity to play a stronger security role in the region,” as Sanam Vakil of the London-based think tank Chatham House put it. Yet the agreement demonstrates China’s “potential to be an appealing alternative to Washington,” she said.
Are you shocked at these turn of events? Has China replaced the United States as the #1 world power?