Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Role of Non-Arab Countries in the Middle East

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Role of Non-Arab Countries in the Middle East

Article excerpt

BBC foreign correspondent Suzanne Kianpour moderated a diverse panel on "New Powers, New Roles" at the Middle East Institute's (MEI) 72nd annual conference at Washington, DC's Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Nov. 8.

MEI president Paul Salem began by outlining the new power structures in the Middle East, as China, Russia and Turkey angle for more influence. "I would say that the rise of new powers in the Middle East is the result of a collapse of the Arab order, resulting in a vacuum in the region," he said.

"Between the end of World War II and 1990 there was an Arab order of sorts," Salem noted. He cited three events that contributed to this breakdown: Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the 2011 Arab Spring. These events, Salem argued, caused vacuums that were filled either by Iran, Russia or a combination of players. "The Arab world today has no common political vision, no common economic project and no agreement on cultural issues like the role of religion, and it has widely different foreign policies," he said.

Salem stated that China does not want to get involved in Middle Eastern conflicts "because they need to get oil, particularly from both sides, and this means from the Iranians and the [Arab] Gulf." Salem also said that China has been happy to have the U.S. protect its oil supplies in the Gulf and not have to bear that expense themselves. "I do not see China today as a geosecurity or a geopolitical player [in the region]," he said.

Christina Lin of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University commented that China right now is just an economic player in the Middle East, not a security player. "I think China is a blank canvas and an opportunity for Middle East countries to project their aspirations for a different type of relationship," she said. "Unlike the West, it has no historical or colonial baggage." China imports more than half of its crude oil from this region and is the largest importer of crude oil in the world. The Middle East is also an emerging market for China, she said, although its largest export market is the EU. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.