The Middle East: New Competitive Features

​   In a world characterized by competition and interdependence, it is difficult to maintain a consistent pattern in programs or plans and thus interactions. The Middle East is not lost on that. It is that geographical region which was and still represents one of the most complex regions on the political and strategic levels. As part of the world, the region is looking forward to making the most of the growth opportunities that can be achieved according to the capabilities it possesses, the most important of which are hydrocarbon resources. At the forefront of the region are the Gulf States that seek to achieve great development ambitions based on the strategic visions that they have set, which eventually make it the highest-growing region in the world, which is expected. However, this is under conditions. It seems that it is not possible to proceed with achieving these goals unless there are Partnerships and interactions with the internal parties of the region “inter-interactions”, and between them and those countries and the most developed economic powers, for example: China, India and others.

China, the second largest economy on Earth, has strategic ambitions and wants to end the century of humiliation by being the strongest economic power in the world, which is achievable. It looks forward to matching its economic strategies and initiatives with more involvement in global issues, including in the form of partnerships, or blocs with different regions of the world, primarily the Middle East and the Gulf states. In fact, China has partnerships and interactions in the region that extend to important aspects in the fields of communications, infrastructure and artificial intelligence systems, as well as energy and clean energy issues. Also, these interactions extend to providing these countries with modern military technology and monitoring and warning systems.

The Middle East, throughout modern history, has proven to be the station that reflects the nature of global interactions in the region and the agendas that countries are working on. It is necessary here to understand the broader framework of the Chinese role from the Iranian-Saudi agreement. China, according to what was mentioned, has shifted from the stage of consolidating bilateral relations to the stage of having a role in the interactions of the region, which is followed by the interests of China. On the other hand, the Chinese involvement, which has deviated from the usual roles in the region, has generated growing concern in the United States about the expected Chinese role, whether at present or in the future, as a challenge to American national security, and to American interests in the Middle East, which represents one of the most important areas of global interactions.

The nature of the interactions, in which China has been involved, comes at a time when the United States is facing an escalation in the severity of challenges in the region, foremost of which is the Iranian challenge, the security challenge to Israel, and the emergence of a new challenge, which is the tepidity of US-Gulf relations, especially with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Knowing that part of this inactivity lies in the nature of the Saudi and American leaderships, as well as the Gulf States’ lack of confidence in the ability and intention of the United States to protect them threats they face. This led to two main results:

First: is that these countries are beginning to make arrangements for balance in their international relations, in other words opening up to other international powers, specifically China, India and Russia.

Second: is that the countries of the region, led by Saudi Arabia, have come to the realization that they have no alternative, to protect their national security, but to reach understandings and solutions to their problems with Iran.

While the other side (Iran) is facing economic difficulties due to Western sanctions, it has realized that it must solve its problems with Saudi Arabia and the region. This mutual awareness led to a dialogue that led to understandings, which prepared the ground for the agreement, which needed a guarantor of its commitment and permanence. Here came the Chinese guarantor mediator who was able to provide this umbrella that countries such as Iraq and Oman could not provide. by virtue of the complexity of the nature of international interactions and the importance of the region to the world, the American side has expressed its satisfaction with the agreement in part, and was in favor of de-escalation in the region and that the two sides reaching this kind of understanding, but not for the agreement to come through China, because the Chinese entry in this role means a transition in the traditional roles and concepts adopted by China, which do not go beyond the economic and developmental aspects. Therefore, several American ideas were put forward to discuss the new Chinese role, and options to deal with this Chinese role, including the involvement of international powers allied to the United States and not in agreement with China, which will inevitably be the parallel power to the Chinese. The one that is closest to China and to the Middle East, which is India.

In fact, India is aligned with China in benefiting from partnerships with the Gulf region and the Middle East to extend to strategic aspects with the countries of the region and in important areas, including security issues related to the maritime security, maritime transport, tankers and infrastructure projects, and in which India is looking for a strategic role in the region that matches the aspirations it is working on and the reality it lives in. when the lens is directed towards India, to that geographical area opposite the Gulf, which has the largest coast on the Arabian Sea, it represents a vital passage point for maritime transport to the Middle East region and to the three sea straits: Hormuz, Bab Al-Mandab, and the Suez Canal, which occupies the Chinese strategic thought in the freedom Chinese ships to pass across. Although India represents the seventh economy in terms of size at the global level, it now represents the largest population in the world with a population exceeding 1.5 billion. Since 2009, India began seeking to draw up strategies to ensure a foothold in important marine areas of the world, specifically towards the Gulf, in addition to benefiting from investing in the large number of workers scattered in the GCC countries, estimated at 9 million, which are equivalent in numbers to the population of majority of the GCC countries. Therefore, the region is not strayed from the Indian strategic perception, if we take into account that 55% of financial transfers and transactions to India flow from these countries, and that two-thirds of energy imports to India come from the Gulf countries and Iraq, as investors from the GCC countries are interested in growing opportunities in India in order to localize their investments in Indian infrastructure projects that stimulate the transfer of Gulf financial capital to it, which represents a desirable destination for them more than other countries. India also has bilateral relations with important countries in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, which framed their relations through the “Delhi Declaration” in 2006. It represents an agreement that can be transformed into a strategic partnership between the two countries, as it is capable of drawing the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council into it.

This reality, and the nature of the interaction between the Chinese and Indian parties, prompted the Americans to exploit it in finding the equivalent party to the Chinese role. The Indian ambition will force the United States to focus on economic issues, and there are three things that represent a preliminary analysis of the Indian role, which is through granting economic temptations reinforced by elements of political strength that the United States has in the region, or through preferential partnership contracts between American and Indian companies operating in the region in the field of energy and logistical supply. The second aspect of the Indian rush will be due to the security factor driven by raising Indian concerns or fears about the Chinese cordon and the alliance with Pakistan to Iran as well as the Gulf and Iraq through the Belt and Road Initiative, and the economic initiatives that China is working on in networking strong ties for its relations in the region. As for the third aspect: it is the price of the American-Indian alliance. There are arrangements between India and the United States of America regarding the conflict over Pakistan. The US is working to tip scales in favor of India, which is what India wants from the United States in the issue of Pakistan. This has led to the Pakistani-Chinese alliance and TTAs “Port of Gwadar”.

The above three aspects lead to a fundamental and profound point, which is that it is part of the US strategy in its dealings with China that it stimulates the Chinese conflict as part of the US strategy in escalating the Indian-Pakistani conflict, in exchange for the US focusing on encircling China from the Indian territories and international waters. One of the main entries into this conflict is that Pakistan is no longer a priority in the Saudi-Emirati perception, especially after its withdrawal from the war in Yemen in 2015, which affected the nature of the Gulf-Pakistan cooperation. This gives India a higher attraction to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. From that, India’s investment in distributing conflicts according to the global map is that India is facing China in the same way as the Europeans confront the Russians in Europe. This prominent Indian role is accompanied by the United States’ preoccupation in its internal affairs and mitigating the burdens of the international conflict that is costing the United States in the region. the prevailing logic will be that the higher the economic growth of China, the higher it will be pushed to develop a strategic system of protection, intervention and interaction, which in turn will motivate the American side to grant preferences and roles to China’s opponents in a region where powers like China, Russia and Iran, which are non-ally to the United States, emerge.

If we look closely at the Gulf States as well as Iraq, these countries aspire to diversify their strategic partners to take advantage of the various growth gains and to accelerate development paths of these countries to comply with the visions which they set for the current decade. The Gulf is already benefiting from both countries “India and China”. At various levels, but in the event of an upcoming competition raging on their soil, they are not ready to lose one of the parties at the expense of the other, because of their importance in various aspects of being strategic development partners. This will put these countries in a sensitive and decisive test for their fate.

From an Iraqi point of view, the traditional policy adopted by the country since 2014 based on balance in foreign relations must be the basis with which these developments are dealt with. In other words, Iraq has interests with the United States, China, Russia, and other countries, the Gulf and with Iran. The largest suppliers of Iraqi oil are China at a rate of 34 million barrels per month, and India at a rate of 28 million barrels per month. This is more than a third of Iraqi exports. As a result, logic requires that the criterion of Iraqi interests be the ruler in controlling positions and not taking sides with any party, and building positive relations with everyone. Everyone must feel that they have interests with Iraq and these interests are preserved and secured as long as they respect and support the unity of Iraq and the country’s sovereignty.

Iraq must build the level of its relations with international parties to the extent that offers the opportunities with which Iraq can invest in serving its supreme interests, foremost of which is its stability, territorial integrity, and preserving its international and regional status.