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Huanqiu, China

US Won’t Share Power in Middle East

By Xu Qinhua

The key to relationships of power for countries in the Middle East has suddenly changed.

Translated By Renee Loeffler

11 September 2013

Edited by Chris J. deGrazia

China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)

These days, the problem of whether or not the U.S. wants to strike Syria has grabbed the attention of the world. China is also paying close attention, seeing as it has huge oil interests in the Middle East. Everyone is waiting to see what attitude and stance China will take regarding the U.S.-Syria conflict, hoping to see the changes in U.S. and Chinese policy toward the Middle East through this situation.

North American shale gas success could make it possible for the U.S. to attain energy independence. In the future, America’s requirement of resources from the Middle East will decline as a whole, and along with it, the relationships of power in the region will also change, causing the Middle East to enter a new era of political games.

In this process, the key to relationships of power for countries in the Middle East has suddenly changed. At the end of 2010, the Arab Spring occurred, causing a series of events involving several issues, including those of “democracy” and “economics.” The scale of these transformations was huge, leaving deep impacts. Advanced oil-mining technology and the ability to produce and commercialize shale gas have shattered the interorganizational and international political games of the countries that consume oil from OPEC, forcing the Middle East into a new post-oil era.

A crucial factor affecting Middle Eastern relationships of power is that U.S. and Middle Eastern policies are becoming unsteady. America's "big" Middle Eastern strategy is to use military strikes to develop peace and carry out reforms, forcing a Western system of values and democratic methods onto traditional Middle Eastern systems of government. The aim is to remove their extreme Islamist ideals and power. However, the U.S. has seriously underestimated how complicated problems in the Middle East are. In 2012, the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed, creating criticism domestically, but the U.S. could do nothing but look closely at its foreign policy in the Middle East again.

A new factor in the structure of power is changing the situation. China, India and other newly developing countries' markets have few alternatives to Middle Eastern oil, and they are sensitive and weak in this area. New regional Middle Eastern political games depend on to what degree the U.S. agrees with other countries to truly share real power in the region. The U.S. announced it could take limited military action against Syria, implying it is unwilling to share rights with China and other countries, only agreeing that they share in the responsibility to maintain safety in the Middle East. The “rebalancing strategy” of the U.S. should be interpreted as adjusting its core strategy in the areas of military affairs and economics to maintain a strategy with “two centers of gravity” — those in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific region, where absolute impact is felt.

U.S. interests in the Middle East consist of three parts. One part is economic interests. The U.S. still needs oil imports from the Middle East because through oil the U.S. dollar can establish ties for profit, to consolidate the dollar in financial hedge fund positions. As an example, Saudi Arabia is America's main source of oil. Through Saudi Arabia, the U.S. can manipulate OPEC to influence the world's oil market, especially influencing the value of oil, and unfortunately Saudi Arabian oil sources can hold back new developing countries. The second part is benefits for U.S. allies. Looking at the Middle Eastern ranking of total oil imports from 2006 to 2011, the first major importer was Japan, after that were Europe and then China and America. America's core policy interests in the Middle East have a path — to protect its allies’ interests in Middle Eastern oil. In this way, the U.S. is able to attract alliances and create joint interests, forming an important strategy. The third part is the interests of U.S. domestic Jewish groups. These groups possess enormous influence on all U.S. political economic policies. Since soon after World War II, favor toward Israel has been primary in U.S. Middle Eastern policies, Jewish interest groups have continued to urge the U.S. to support Israel and they have not allowed the U.S. to abandon the Middle East.

In summary, the U.S. will not allow power in the Middle East to be given to just any country. Its desire to strike Syria has the same “two birds with one stone” effect as in the war in Kosovo: both to protect justice and human rights principles and to feel out the direction of China’s and Russia's policies in the Middle East. This time, it is both to protect the Americans’ own dominance of regional political power and to feel out how far and to what capacity China and Russia will ensure security in the area.



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