At a hearing held last week regarding his department's 2022 budget, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “China has no allies. We have many allies around the world.” Such a statement and others that occasionally emanate from US government institutions in recent years need a reality check to examine their credibility and impact on America's relations with other countries.
In this article, I will not talk about China's ability or inability to build successful alliances globally, nor will I address the future of the Chinese presence in the Middle East and the Arab region over the next few years, for the very simple reason that the region's countries have not yet conducted a confidence test that determines the success or failure of establishing Middle Eastern-Chinese alliances. Naturally, we are not talking about Iran, which months ago signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with China. Still, the results of this new alliance are subject to two critical factors: the Iranian regime's ability to forge successful alliances based on shared interests, and the future of Iran's relations with the countries in the region.
It is clear that when Austin made this statement, he was thinking of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Quad, comprising the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. He was also referring to the solid US-South Korean alliance. However, is America strong vis-à-vis its allies right now?
The Americans need to understand that their country's current strength is based not only on their military, economic, and scientific superiority, but on the good alliances they made during the 20th century. Starting with Western Europe, the Middle East, and the Gulf countries, and their successful post-World War II alliances with some countries in the Far East and Oceania. America succeeded and became the number one power in the world, because it chose the right path and direction for alliances. At the same time, its rivals, such as the former Soviet Union, failed to build successful alliances in the right place and time.
These alliances were successful. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, they thought they no longer needed their previous alliances in Europe and the Middle East. They began focusing on strengthening their presence in the Far East to surround China, ensuring that it did not emerge as a new leader that would rob them of their unilateral status.
The problem with Americans, including Secretary Austin, is that they think that their alliances are always subject to the US need. Once this need is over, they abandon them and break all their commitments in ways that have become known to the policymakers in the Middle East and the world. Sometimes, to ensure that there is no rival in any region of the world, they nurture the ongoing conflicts, adding fuel to the flames if necessary.
Their biggest problem is that they think that the balance of their alliances always tends to favor the other side, and therefore they do not find it objectionable to blackmail their allies from time to time. But they overlooked the fact that America is strong with its allies with shared interests, and not its very far geographical location from the heart of the world! They also failed to notice that former allies, who created America's power, are not always ready to ride the bandwagon of US interests whenever needed!
This article was originally published and translated from Emirati daily Al-Ittihad.