China has become a major threat to US interests in the Middle East and especially in Iraq, according to a report for RT by Darius Shahtahmasebi. Iraq has become China’s second or third largest source of oil, and China has displaced India as Iraq’s number one trading partner, Shahtahmasebi reported. This trade includes Iraq’s purchases in recent years of “billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese military equipment,” including armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), precision-guided rockets, and ballistic missile systems.
And, as The Diplomat and RT reported, in September 2019, during a visit to Beijing, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi announced that Iraq would join China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Arab Weekly described the BRI as “a massive global network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks” that would span Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, expected to result in “trillions invested in new infrastructure.”
Also in September, the Middle East Monitor reported that Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, will return to China in March 2020 to launch what a senior Iraqi official described as “a new phase of economic, trade and investment relations with China.” War-torn Iraq is expected to encourage Beijing to invest in reconstruction projects in return for oil sales.
Consequently, Shahtahmasebi wrote, in Iraq and other nations, the US risks “losing out to China” and “being driven out of countries it previously held a stranglehold over.” To prevent China from exerting even greater influence in Iraq, in October 2019, the US withdrew troops from Syria and redeployed them to Iraq. The Iraqi government responded by asserting that the US had no authority to do so, a position that drew the attention of US corporate news media. As Shahtahmasebi noted, Iraq’s assertion of autonomy “echoed” a previous declaration by Iraq, from September, that it would not serve as “a launching pad” for US aggression against “any of our neighboring countries.”
Noting that US-led sanctions, invasion, and occupation had plunged Iraq “into a chaotic state of disarray,” Shahtahmasebi concluded that, if the US is concerned about China’s expanding influence in Iraq, “it has only itself to blame.”
Darius Shahtahmasebi, “China–Not Iran–Is the Real Reason Us Troops Will Never Leave Iraq,” RT, November 5, 2019, https://www.rt.com/op-ed/472630-iraq-china-american-troops/.
Daniel J. Samet, “China, Not Iran, Is the Power to Watch in Iraq,” The Diplomat, October 30, 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/china-not-iran-is-the-power-to-watch-in-iraq/.
“Iraq Turns to China to Boost Economy,” The Arab Weekly, September 28 2019, https://thearabweekly.com/iraq-turns-china-boost-economy.
“Iraq Eyes Construction Deals with China in Return for Oil Sales,” Middle East Monitor, September 10, 2019, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190910-iraq-eyes-construction-deals-with-china-in-return-for-oil-sales/.
Student Researcher: Blake Bourelle (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Philips (Sonoma State University)