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China’s Mideast Position in Flux Amid Escalating U.S.-Iran Crisis

Iranians tear up a US flag during a demonstration in Tehran on January 3, 2020 following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike on his convoy at Baghdad international airport. ATTA KENARE / AFP

Editor’s Note: the geopolitical lines that once clearly separated Africa, MENA and the GCC countries from one another are now quite blurred. As such, we’re going to include more coverage of China-Gulf and China Mideast relations in our daily newsletter and podcasts.

There’s an emerging consensus in some corners of Washington’s commentary class that China stands to be the big beneficiary of the worsening crisis between the United States and Iran that was sparked by the recent assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Trump’s Iran Clusterf***ery Just Handed the Middle East to China” blared the headline on the Daily Beast (paywall) today in a scathing column written by David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment and the former Editor in Chief of Foreign Policy magazine. Rothkopf highlighted how Bejing is using the crisis to solidify its ties with neighboring Iraq, a country that incidentally may soon see the departure of all U.S. forces.

Other analysts have been a bit more circumspect than Rothkopf but nonetheless echo a similar theme that diminished U.S. credibility in the Gulf and Mideast will ultimately help China’s diplomatic ascendency in these regions.

Selected Media Coverage on China’s Position in the Burgeoning Gulf Crisis:

  • CNN: “Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been the paramount power not only in the Middle East, but throughout the globe. As China increasingly challenges American hegemony, the Middle East will likely emerge as a key arena for this rivalry. By killing Soleimani and plunging the region into fresh chaos, Trump may have made it easier for Beijing to supplant Washington in years to come.” — James Griffiths, Senior Producer, CNN International

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