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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/15/17

Blood on the tracks of the New Silk Roads

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From Asia Times

China's cardinal foreign policy imperative is to refrain from interfering abroad while advancing the proverbial good relations with key political actors -- even when they may be at each other's throats.

Still, it's nothing but gut-wrenching for Beijing to watch the current, unpredictable, Saudi-Qatari standoff. There's no endgame in sight, as plausible scenarios include even regime change and a seismic geopolitical shift in Southwest Asia -- what a Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

And blood on the tracks in Southwest Asia cannot but translate into major trouble ahead for the New Silk Roads, now rebranded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Trump's senior staff though maintains that Qatar never came up in discussions with the Saudis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Exxon-Mobil CEO and a certified old Middle East hand, has done his best to defuse the drama -- conscious there would be no reason for Qatar to continue hosting Al Udeid Air Base and Centcom to a hostile superpower.

Meanwhile, Russia -- the Beltway's favorite evil entity -- is getting closer and closer to Qatar, ever since the game-changing acquisition in early December by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) of 19.5% of the crown energy giant Rosneft.

That translates into an economic/political alliance of the world's top two gas exporters; and that explains why Doha -- still holding a permanent office at NATO's HQ -- has abruptly thrown its "moderate rebels" in Syria under the (economic) bus.

Russia and China are bound by a complex, multi-vector strategic partnership. Beijing, privileging economic interests, takes a pragmatic view and is never inclined to play a political role. As the world's biggest manufacturer and exporter, Beijing's motto is crystal clear: Make Trade, Not War.

But what if Southwest Asia is mired in the foreseeable future in a permanent pre-war footing?

China and BRI's best pal Iran

China is Qatar's top trading partner. Beijing was actively negotiating a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) before the current standoff. Moving forward, a possible scenario is Qatar even pulling out of the GCC.

Qatar is also China's second-largest source of liquefied natural gas (LNG), while Saudi Arabia is China's third-largest source of oil. Since 2010 China is ahead of the US as the biggest exporter to Southwest Asia while solidifying its position as the top importer of Southwest Asia energy.

When King Salman recently visited Beijing, the House of Saud ecstatically spun a "Sino-Saudi strategic partnership" based on the signing of deals worth $65 billion. The partnership, in fact, hinges on a five-year Saudi Arabia-China security cooperation agreement that includes counter-terrorism and joint military drills. Much will have to do with keeping the profitable Red Sea-Gulf of Aden corridor free of political turmoil.

Of course, eyebrows may be raised over the fact that Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism is the ideological matrix of Salafi-jihadism threatening not only Southwest Asia and the West but also China itself.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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