Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing… How did China overturn Middle East diplomacy?

After Beijing’s success in mediating the resumption of Iranian-Saudi relations, analysts believe that this step reinforces a sense of growing Chinese power and influence, which fuels talk of the diminishing global influence of the United States.

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (archive)

The sudden agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations has much to worry officials in Washington, most notably China’s growing role as peace broker in a region where the United States has long enjoyed influence.

The deal was announced after four days of talks in Beijing, and was not disclosed at the time between the two countries. In this regard, White House spokesman John Kirby said, on Friday, that Saudi Arabia has kept US officials informed of the talks with Iran, despite Washington’s lack of direct involvement in them.

Kirby apparently wanted to downplay China’s role in the file, as he said that the White House believes that “internal and external pressure, including effective Saudi deterrence against attacks from Iran or its proxies, is what ultimately brought Tehran to the negotiating table.”

But Jeffrey Feltman, a former senior US and UN official, acknowledged that China’s role in the agreement is the most important aspect of the scene.

Feltman, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, added that “this will be interpreted, and perhaps this is correct, as a slap to the Biden administration and as evidence that China is the rising power.”

The Chinese mediation clearly indicates Beijing’s growing role in establishing itself as a leading diplomatic force in the Middle East, especially since the agreement is an important success for Chinese diplomacy and an indication of a greater role in the region in the future.

China’s diplomatic model wins out

In this regard, confirmed The American Wall Street Journal China’s model of new diplomacy has won the Iran-Saudi deal, considering that Beijing’s initiative represents a new model for managing international relations.

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The newspaper pointed out that the increase of China’s influence in the Middle East is tangible evidence that Beijing is ready to take advantage of its influence in foreign conflicts, noting that China has approached the oil-rich Middle East, as it appeared first in the world as an energy importer, but its role is now much greater.

Despite the historical role of the United States in the Middle East, China has a growing economic and diplomatic power there, according to the newspaper.

The newspaper also indicated that the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia constituted an additional impetus for Chinese diplomatic initiatives, which it says are a new model for managing international relations.

Read also: Rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran: Chinese mediation consolidates the decline of American hegemony

The deal heralds a post-American Middle East

In turn, confirm “Fox” site That American influence has been eroding over decades from the devastating transcendence of the post-9/11 years to President Donald Trump’s foreign policy diplomacy.

The site quoted Chas Freeman, a retired diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East and China, as saying that “if you create a diplomatic vacuum, someone will fill it, and that’s basically what happened to US policy in the Gulf,” stressing that this is “a really big development.”

He pointed out that China’s playing a role shows where the global power is changing, which is a meaningful change in how Chinese President Xi Jinping manages Middle East policy.

Freeman made it clear that this diplomacy, while important, does not mean that China is trying to displace the security role of the United States in the Middle East. Instead, he said, China is “trying to create a peaceful international environment there, in which you can do business.”

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According to the site, Saudi Arabia had briefed the United States on the talks, but Washington did not participate directly, indicating that the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement did not seem to be something the Biden administration was working for.

Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, noted that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states were already “formulating a foreign policy independent of the United States, in response to what they saw as an abdication of US military responsibility for the Gulf and diplomatic incompetence.”

Also read: The New York Times: The Tehran-Riyadh agreement in Beijing is a great loss for Washington’s interests

‘America on the margins’

In the same context, I mentioned American magazine “Newsweek”. The announcement of an agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia under the auspices of China gave China more influence in the Middle East and now marks a milestone in Beijing’s efforts to establish itself as a leading diplomatic power.

The magazine considered that “the historic agreement that was announced is the beginning of the end of a seven-year dispute between the two leading powers in the Middle East.”

In the words of Jacopo Setta, Policy Fellow at the Bourse & Bazaar Foundation and PhD Fellow at Durham University’s School of Government and International Affairs in the UK, this is “a major diplomatic victory for China, and certainly an unprecedented step in Beijing’s diplomatic engagement with the region.”

“What is clear is that countries in the region increasingly view China not only as an economic partner, but as a diplomatic force that can play an active role in regional dynamics,” Seta said in an interview with the magazine.

As for The New York Times newspaperIt saw that the agreement negotiated in Beijing showed at least a temporary realignment of the usual alliances and rivalries, with Washington left on the sidelines.

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And the newspaper considered that the agreement between the two countries “is among the largest and most volatile developments that anyone could have imagined, and it is a transformation that stunned the capitals of the world,” noting that the alliances and rivalries that ruled diplomacy for generations have been overturned, at least for the time being.

According to the newspaper, the Americans, who have been central actors in the Middle East over the past century, now find themselves “on the sidelines” at a moment of great change.

On the other hand, the Chinese have suddenly turned themselves into a new power player, while the Israelis are now wondering about their position, after they were flirting with the Saudis against Tehran, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper quoted Amy Hawthorne, deputy director of research for the Project on Middle East Democracy, as saying, “There is no way to beat China. This is a big deal.”

Hawthorne believed that “China’s remarkable achievement pushes it into a new role diplomatically and surpasses anything the United States has been able to achieve in the region since Biden took office.”

Now that the deal has been sealed, analysts see the move as reinforcing a sense of growing Chinese power and influence, fueling talk of diminishing US global influence.

The message Beijing seems to be sending is that while the United States is the dominant military power in the Gulf, China has a strong and arguably growing diplomatic presence.

This prompted some to wonder about the possibility that this step could be a prelude to Chinese mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine when Chinese President Xi visits Moscow in the coming months.

Read also: A reading of the motives of the Iranian-Saudi agreement

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