Saudi Arabia, led by the crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), determined to change tactics to achieve the predominance of his kingdom in the Middle East, decided to enter into alliances of all kinds with everyone without measuring the costs that this could cause. In March of this year, the Saudi kingdom and Iran announced an agreement to restore diplomatic relations after talks held in Beijing. This way, China This unimaginable achievement was awarded between two great enemies in the Middle East. The president of the Asian giant, Xi Jinping, congratulated the two countries for their “wisdom”, and showed their great diplomatic victory, a product of their large wallet whose decisions and expenses must not be approved by any congress but are made at their own will. But MBS wanted to go one step further, and start talks with the USAalso his partner, to sign a peace agreement with Israel and enter the league of Arab countries that have already signed the Abraham Accords such as Bahrain, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Sudan. But With Hamas’ savage attacks on Israel on Saturday, October 7, Iran and China put a limit on their ambitions.
To understand this TEG game in which the world is immersed, playing dangerously, at times, with unleashing a Third World War, we must understand all the alliances that were being woven in these post-pandemic years and their implications.
In recent times, China and Iran have developed a broad and deep partnership focused on China’s energy needs and Iran’s abundant resources. They have also generated important non-energy economic ties such as arms sales and defense cooperation, and geostrategic balance with the United States. China’s policies have hampered U.S. and international efforts to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
In December 2022 finally Iran and China sign a Memorandum of Understanding laying the foundations for an agreement for 25 years of mutual collaboration.
China has become Iran’s most important oil customer and trading partner. It has provided it with the technological knowledge to develop its energy resources. Chinese engineers have also built bridges, dams, railways and tunnels throughout Iran. China has helped Iran modernize its military hardware and doctrine through the transfer of military technology and the sale of small arms and tactical ballistic and anti-ship cruise missiles.
It has helped develop Iran’s nuclear program through the transfer of technology and machinery.
China’s economic ties with Iran have shielded the Iranian regime from the effects of international sanctions.
Relations between China and Iran are rooted in both countries having authoritarian regimes and historical narratives that characterize the international system as unjust and dominated by Western powers. They are united by a common enemy, the West.
The Iranian regime views China as a potential ally against the United States, and Beijing sees Iran as a potential partner to limit US influence in the Middle East.
While the foundations of the economic partnership between Iran and China are Iran’s abundant energy resources and China’s growing energy needs, China is not dependent on the Islamic Republic for its energy needs; on the contrary, The Iranian regime now depends on China as its main diplomatic protector.
Returning to Saudi Arabia and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Iran achieved by China in March of this year also has to do with interests rather than friendship. And it was definitely this agreement that brought about the truce in Yemen.
Since the president Ebrahim Raisi took office in August 2021, he announced that it was a priority to reduce tensions with regional neighbors. Saudi Arabia and Iran have been bitter enemies in the region, having a wide variety of differences, often fighting each other through proxies. Their tireless struggles have spread from Lebanon to Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Iran has supplied weapons to Houthi forces in Yemen who have threatened Saudi populations both on the border and in interior areas. They have fought for years. And Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in finding a way to end the conflict.
For China, facilitating negotiations between countries in conflict increases its diplomatic prestige at the international level in its struggle with the United States. The not-so-subtle message China is sending is that, while the United States is the preponderant military power in the Gulf, China is a powerful and growing diplomatic presence.
Beijing was in a situation of economic preponderance to put pressure on both parties. As I already mentioned in the previous paragraph, China accounts for around 30 percent of Iran’s total international trade, so it is vital for Iran. But China is also today Saudi Arabia’s largest oil export market. Let us remember that a few years ago the United States became self-sufficient in its oil supply. When President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia in December last year to guide negotiations, the Iranians protested the words of praise addressed by the Chinese president to the Saudi kingdom, but their dependence on China meant that they had to digest them quickly since today It is its only partner along with Russia due to its global isolation.
Saudi Arabia signs this agreement completely excluding the United States and sends a message that the Saudis are trying to diversify their security bets and not be totally dependent on the United States.
But MBS wanted to use his weight in the region and increase it by starting to negotiate a peace agreement between his kingdom and Israel with the United States on this occasion as mediator. In this way trying to ingratiate himself with both world powers, the United States and China. Although the rapprochement with Iran was due to Chinese pressure, he knows that this country remains his greatest enemy and needs to ensure economic and military support from the United States in the event of a confrontation with Iran.
Saudi skepticism toward Iran runs deep, and Iranian hostility toward Saudi Arabia is equally deep-rooted. Maintaining US security guarantees against Iranian aggression, seeking some agreement with the United States for some nuclear enrichment, and deepening security understandings with Israel, was part of a broader strategy against what the Saudis see as an Iranian threat. in the long term.
But their plan was truncated on October 7 where, directly or indirectly, Iran and China used the terrorist group Hamas, which without their support or that of the Qatari government, would not survive a second, to perpetrate the most ferocious and inhumane attack, mtying up thousands of civilians leaving Israel no choice but to enter a war. And in this war, Saudi Arabia undoubtedly has no choice but to side with its compatriots, the Arabs. In this way, destroying any possibility of an agreement with Israel in 2023 that would have been so beneficial for peace in the region.
Evidently China, which wants to establish itself as a pacifist government, is very far from being one since today it continues to remain silent. He made no statement regarding the aberrant Hamas attack. He does not consider Hamas a terrorist group while he does consider the Uyghur Muslims who inhabit the Xinjiang area terrorists and “reeducates” them in labor camps. He calls the War between Russia and Ukraine a “military operation”, where he supports the Russians economically and militarily. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Iranian drones that bomb Ukraine would not be possible without the parts that come from China to arm them.
MBS, the Saudi prince wanted to go one step further but his new partners did not let him. Now we will have to see who wins in this power struggle. As humanity we are all losing. A violent world plagued by wars after having gone through a pandemic that caused the death of millions around the world, means that we learned nothing.