- Date published:
4:57 pm, March 13th, 2023 - 14 comments
Categories: Africa, China, Diplomacy, Iran, Joe Biden, Peace, Peace, Ukraine, Xi Jinping - Tags:
Veteran Indian diplomat MK Bhadrakumar describes the resumption of diplomatic relations between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia brokered by China as a “Suez moment” in the history of the Middle East. Peace in Yemen is only one of the possible benefits.
Bhadrakumar says of its significance:
The agreement announced on Friday in Beijing regarding the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the reopening of their embassies is a historic event. It goes way beyond an issue of Saudi-Iranian relations. China’s mediation signifies that we are witnessing a profound shift of the tectonic plates in the geopolitics of the 21st century.
An Associated Press article carried in the Sunday Star-times but unfortunately not to be found on the Stuff website underlines the importance of China as a peace-broker:
Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed Friday to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions. The major diplomatic breakthrough negotiated with China lowers the chance of armed conflict between the Mideast rivals — both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region.
The deal, struck in Beijing this week amid its ceremonial National People’s Congress, represents a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East. It also comes as diplomats have been trying to end a long war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.
The deal appears to have put the United States on the back foot. Bhadrakumar says:
But the salience is that the United States, which has been traditionally the dominant power in West Asian politics for close to eight decades, is nowhere in the picture. Yet, this is about the reconciliation between the two biggest regional powers in the Persian Gulf region. The US retrenchment denotes a colossal breakdown of American diplomacy. It will remain a black mark in President Biden’s foreign policy legacy.
The US’ humiliating exclusion from the centre stage of West Asian politics constitutes a “Suez moment” for the superpower, comparable to the crisis experienced by the UK in 1956, which obliged the British to sense that their imperial project had reached a dead end and the old way of doing things—whipping weaker nations into line as ostensible obligations of global leadership —was no longer going to work and would only lead to disastrous reckoning.
China has shown that its diplomacy can get real results and they are also not into big-noting:
The stunning part here is the sheer brain power and intellectual resources and ‘soft power’ that China has brought into play to outwit the US. The US has at least 30 military bases in West Asia — five in Saudi Arabia alone — but it has lost the mantle of leadership. Come to think of it, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China made their landmark announcement on the very same day Xi Jinping got elected for a third term as president.
What we are seeing is a new China under the leadership of Xi Jinping trotting over the high knoll. Yet, it is adopting a self-effacing posture claiming no laurels for itself. There is no sign of the ‘Middle Kingdom syndrome,’ which the US propagandists had warned against.
Further to that, the whole non-Western world is watching.
On the contrary, for the world audience — especially countries like India or Vietnam, Turkey, Brazil or South Africa — China has presented a salutary example of how a democratised multipolar world can work in future — how it is possible to anchor big power diplomacy on consensual, conciliatory politics, trade and interdependence and advance a ‘win-win’ outcome.
Implicit in this is another huge message: China as a factor of global balance and stability. It is not only Asia-Pacific and West Asia who are watching. The audience also includes Africa and Latin America — in fact, the entire non-Western world that forms the big majority of world community who are known as the Global South.
China also has a peace proposal for the Ukraine. I support it.
Well reported Mike. Makes a pleasant change from the usual imperialist posturing on such issues.
Many that pathetically support “our” imperialist, namely USA, don’t seem to get that vast numbers in the Southern Hemisphere have a different take on things.
Thanks for that Mike. There doesn't seem to be any local media reporting of this pretty significant deal.
Presumably this could also reduce some of the impact of the US sanctions on Iran; particularly if the Saudis decide to increase investments in Iran?
A tiny hope for the human race, if this kind of sanity takes hold, maybe we won't destroy ourselves
Potentially China could help broker a peace deal in Ukraine. But they would have to back right away from any thought of arming Russia through the back door for that to work.
China should be able to pressure Russia because the Chinese say they respect interational borders. From the article:
So, China should be pressuring Russia to leave Ukrainian territory in order to facilitate a peace deal that will finally end this war.
It's a message to the West, accept Taiwan is part of China and then there might be a stronger Chinese position on Ukraine.
@tsmithfield…you do understand that having a Guardian link on the subject of the Ukraine war is about as useful as having an RT link right?…in other words, mostly pointless, that is if, it is actually truth and facts you are hoping to convey to other Standard readers…but on the other hand, if it is an echo chamber you are hoping to reinforce, then The Guardian is an excellent choice.
Meanwhile the West has its response to the invasion of Ukraine and China’s refusal to stand by the principle of nation state sovereignty.
The UK is increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP and its Defence Minister wants it at 3% by 2030.
Given the problematic situation in Yemen can be best resolved by agreement between SA and Iran, no one is troubled by the development – having diplomatic relations is a prerequisite.
The Americans were increasingly embarrassed at the SA bombing in Yemen while concerned at Russian actions in Ukraine (and cessation of conflict is vital for aid delivery). But have issues with Iran, given it's now bipartisan not to return to the Obama era deal but instead to maintain sanctions.
A related issue is Iraq, they have real issues forming a functional government – and its current direction is towards Islamist polity (SA and Iran both have their own versions) with the more secular (nationalist) minded Kurds and others (secularists, women and Christians) sidelined. That might lead to a SA backed Sunni party and Shia backed one in alliance – SA though would oppose any formal/established Iranian alignment in its government (whether military or security).
China's motive is obvious – the Suez to Asia and the Persian Gulf to China trade supply lines are important to it.
And in general they also would want a world where there are more resolved issues and fewer areas of conflict.
This speaks to a goal of the Xi Jinping to secure within the last 2 of his 4 terms, a pathway for Taiwan into China while placating concerns about any greater ambition as to military sphere hegemony in SE Asia and East Asia.
Something that everyone should support, in the interest of mankind's future on the planet
This won't phase either State or Pentagon. They'd made the call to abandon the Middle East even before pulling out of Afghanistan.
Good luck to China's senior diplomats if they want to step into the Ukraine-Russia space.
I'd bet however it will be Europe and the US that will dictate the terms of the end of war, and it will look something like the Treaty of Versailles.
An optimum outcome of the war is that Putin chooses to not stand at the next election and pretty quickly after that Russia breaks into a further series of Balkanised 'stans'. At which point Europe will be more free to expand.
"Russia breaks into a further series of Balkanised 'stans'. At which point Europe will be more free to expand"….you put your finger on it right there ad, this a widely held Western hegemonic World view point, a view which has been pursued by many at the highest political and military positions in the West for decades…which is of course one of the main reasons why Russia is at war in the Ukraine today….and further Ad, if you really believe that it is only Putin that is the glue that holds Russian nationalist Bear together, and by removing him Russia would "quickly into a further series of Balkanised 'stans"..then I would suggest that you have been reading a little to much BBC, Guardian, WoPo propaganda for your own good my friend.
Ex PM Paul Keating on Meet The Press, SKY News Australia this afternoon, it was very entertaining and he completely dismembered a number of reporters, did not bother to hold back his contempt for some recent stories.
For context read this story:
Paul Keating calls nuclear submarines worst decision by Labor government since WWI conscription
This is the contrary opinion.
However, Paul Keating's opine is based on the concept of Oz security within Asia and independence from the UK-USA security alliance. Thus conforming Oz polity to subservience within its relationship with the dominant power within the region, China – which would have meant using Chinese comms infrastructure, no participation in the Quad and ultimately withdrawal from ANZUS.
And his reading of the approach taken and to the next level with this decision, is premised on it being a security dependence on outside powers and to conflict within the region with China.
The traditional purpose of containment (George Kennan Cold War – Russia) is not conflict, but conflict prevention. George Kennan would have said it worked fine (was aided by Nixon's tilt to China in the 1970's) and the problem was not resolving issues with Russia when the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union ended. Thus the lesson of Europe is that containment works but it also requires diplomacy (de-escalation during the containment phase and then with conflict resolution a new diplomatic beginning).
The real issue remains one of the path to conflict resolution. And what role a nation plays in the wider issue, participant in containment, or the diplomacy.