China switches to US side in Iran-Saudi crisis - NEDRET ERSANEL

China switches to US side in Iran-Saudi crisis

The dangerous tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia could lead the People's Republic of China, which only loomed over the Middle East until today, to take action physically in the matter.

It may do this by taking part of the responsibility on the shoulders of the US and Russia. This means adding one more to the number of stones that have already moved out of place in the region.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming went to Riyadh. Possibly by the time you are reading these lines, he will have passed through to Tehran. The Chinese Foreign Affairs' explanation concerning Ming's Saudi Arabia visit is quite humble: To exchange in-depth ideas regarding the situation…

As is known, China contacted the countries regarding the matter and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said at the Regular Press Conference on April 1, 2015, that resolution of disputes via friendly and cooperative relationships may be conducive to peace.


If the Middle East, or Saudi Arabia in particular, is in question, we can expect the US, the UK or France to carry our active policies, but China joining the crisis/solution process is thought-provoking… (The distance in London-Riyadh relations is especially interesting. After the UK withdrew from a tender to modernize the prisons in Saudi Arabia, the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia made a concerning statement on relations.)

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries and Iran have separate significance for China. The region and the seas to which it opens need to be calm.

Even a brief listing of these conditions will make clear the criticalness of the situation: 1. The Gulf region is one of, or perhaps the first of the strategic links in the sea leg of the Silk Road, which is China's global plan. 2. There are high and intense Chinese investments in this region and the area surrounding it, from Greece to Pakistan. 3. The lead role players of the crisis, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are the principal suppliers of energy resources that are vital to China. 4. There is military cooperation between China and Iran and although it wants to avoid open involvement in the tensions between the West and Russia, China does not want balances to be upset too much against Russia.


Noting that China would be meeting with the active countries in the region, this also includes Turkey. So let us discuss how Russia views China's emphasis in the region…

According to China, hundreds of Uighurs have joined Daesh in Iraq and Syria. This is another point to take into consideration by Beijing when taking a new position in the Middle East. In other words, when making an impact on the Middle East, it is analyzing that this may be reflected on the country as a reaction. This is the first part of the job. The second part is the likelihood of China's entering the region via military presence. It is already known that the Chinese fleet has shown flag in the relevant pool, including the Mediterranean, and has carried out big drills, sometimes on its own and sometimes jointly with Russia. But according to Moscow, there is no possibility of Chinese boots on the ground or it deploying troops to Iraq or Syria.

However, a country like China does not necessarily need to take military measures to protect its interests in the Middle East. Its presence is enough to make everyone wonder what is happening.

Thus, in the last 15 days, Beijing hosted two critical names from the region. One of these was Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. In fact, during this visit, China and Iraq published a joint statement and raised the level of their relations to strategic partnership. I guess by now everybody knows what “strategic partnership” means.

No surprising statements by Beijing followed after its contact with the Damascus administration… Meaning, it said the people of Syria need to decide on Syria's future and the United Nations needs to play an important role in talks, while maintaining its close position to the Damascus administration.

The indication of China assuming a new role is hidden in another development. China also accepted the anti-Damascus Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SMDK) and as you read these lines, they too are there. The countries that support this coalition are known. Yet what's more interesting is that while the SMDK is rejecting calls from Russia, it immediately accepted China's offer. This means Beijing and Moscow are not on the same page regarding the Iran-Saudi Arabia crisis.

In fact, we can say that the US becomes a lot more active or takes effective role in solving this crisis, China can openly align with Washington.

To see all this clearly, the sensitive visit that will take place on January 23 needs to be followed closely. Chinese President Xi Jinping will be visiting Tehran for two days.

I guess these developments, the announcement of the Islamic alliance, the development of a strategic partnership between Ankara and Riyadh, the eruption of the Tehran-Riyadh crisis, the position taken by a series of countries against Iran whether or not they have an impact in the region, Israel's attempts at getting closer with both Egypt and Turkey, and finally the claims that North Korea exploded a hydrogen bomb, explain the kind of global vortex it is being dragged into…

China entering the region promising the potential to take a side, something which we are not used to seeing, is worth paying attention to.


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