How the Global Dynamic Between the US and China Affects Regional Patterns in the Middle East

Abstract: With global competition between the United States (US) and China taking new forms, the Middle East will not be spared. The latter’s regional patterns of amity and enmity are affected by global great power politics, not only as far as bilateral interactions (or limitations to them) are concerned but up to alignments, external involvements and collateral damages. China applies a realist strategy along with risk management in its Middle Eastern interactions, however, ideological justification is lacking at the basis of the aforestated cooperation. The US in comparison is grounding its decision to remain or withdraw based on factors related to the rise of China and its presence in the region, despite the former’s willingness to withdraw from the Middle East. The scramble for power has consequences in patterns of alliances and oppositions - Iran and Israel find themselves in a dilemma regarding the two external actors.


Bottom-line-up-front: Despite the willingness to disengage from the region, the US is stuck in the Middle East based on strategic calculus that deals with the Belt and Road Initiative while China perceives the area with a more pragmatic view. Simultaneously, regional actors such as Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia are experiencing a formalisation of alignments which would have been impossible in a system closed to external players.


Problem statement: In an attempt to prove that despite it no longer being a game of chess as with the Cold War, foreign presence is powerful enough to alter regional balance (even more so in an area characterised by unrest and ideological contrapositions), the following question arises: “How can the issue of external mediation in the Middle East be better addressed?”


So what?: It is unlikely that the great powers will change their standpoints relating to each other, however, as history has proven, regional alignments can transform and become less vulnerable to security dilemmas that are exploitable by external actors immerged in their cost-benefit analyses. Indeed, disengaging from the Middle East into a mere spectator or guarantor could suffice in reducing tensions. Therefore, scholars must be ready to adopt eventual future-oriented lenses rather than endure the replications of an end era.


Source: shutterstock.com/esfera

The Middle East is a Historical Victim


As global competition between the United States (US) and China assumes new forms, there is no part of the world that can be spared. Their superpower status is undeniable and if the superiority of the US is confirmed, not everyone would agree with defining the international system as bipolar again. Given that many see China as a potential, ambitious or even more often emerging superpower[1], one might assume that its race is still in progress and as such should not be among US priorities. The only missing piece for China appears to be the title of a superpower as opposed to its other capabilities. In light of status recognition, experts and policymakers have wondered what shape its willingness to lead the international arena will take.


In-between this tension, most of the world's states still have to prove whether they are taking sides themselves. Some have the privilege – or the muscles – of being allied with one while being allowed to interact with the other without fearing excessive retaliation. Concrete retorsions are not all: in unstable regions, what matters is not simply the presence of superpowers but similarly their ties with threatening neighbours. Policymaking and strategic decisions are undertaken and due to their high degree of complexity, they sometimes result in unmotivated public opinion. Therefore, it becomes important to analyse how regional patterns of amity and enmity are affected by global great power politics, not only in terms of bilateral interactions (or limitations to them) but also in terms of alignments in remote areas. The author Guy Burton, during an interview, described the following as a more likely outcome: he considers the US and China to be too interdependent on one another to reach worrisome escalations pertaining to international order, but not every actor to be as valuable and powerful enough to play the interdependence card.[2] That is why regions involved in “proxy confrontation” risk experiencing collateral damage from a game they are not a part of; the Middle East is a historical victim of such trials of strength.


Concrete retorsions are not all: in unstable regions, what matters is not simply the presence of superpowers but similarly their ties with threatening neighbours.

It is the region of choice for three reasons. First, due to the theoretical weight that the specific area carries. Being at the intersection of three continents, it represents the merging of Afro-Eurasia and in that, highlights symbolic and strategic relevance. This position was noted by Mackinder[3], who summarized it as the core of the World Island. Kitsikis assigned it even more significance:[4] starting from Mackinder’s geopolitical vision, he went further and defined the Middle East as the centre of the “Intermediate Region”, meaning the overlap between Eastern and Western civilisations, whose inhabitants carry the burden of representing the synthesis of the two sides. The difference between the former and the latter is the importance of the portion the Middle East is assigned to: if the World Island is inferior to the Heartland, the Intermediate Region is considered the highest step within the hierarchy. Although time has proved Mackinder’s findings at least partially wrong, the geographical location of the Middle East is undeniably central for flows among Europe, Asia, and Africa. Second, the region is necessary for the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While US presence in the region goes way back, China had to develop its way to make space for itself and ensure correct functioning trade from the area. As a matter of fact, it was not any kind of trade. The third and final point remains the relevance of energy sources for the Mainland production, as it relies on their imports. The US on the other hand is more independent thanks to domestic production. If not through control at the least, free access to these resources is crucial for a country developing as, before anything else, economic power.


The difference between the former and the latter is the importance of the portion the Middle East is assigned to: if the World Island is inferior to the Heartland, the Intermediate Region is considered the highest step within the hierarchy.

The purpose of this digression was to set the basis for the selection made for this paper. Beyond the great interest the region holds for Security Studies, its issues are evident and intertwined with various other aspects which comprise the policy-making of local and external actors.


The structure will take the following form: first, it will cover the interactions of the Middle East with China, followed by an analysis of the perception and consequences of the US-China confrontation in the region. Second, it will deal with Chinese relations with Iran and Israel, aiming to clearly define the wiggle-room they still have, as they find themselves stuck between the two superpowers. Before concluding, the paper will discuss the consequences of the struggle for power by external actors on regional patterns of alliances and oppositions.


China’s Involvement in the Region


Why should China get involved in a theatre characterised by issues and challenges? How did it manage to reserve a space for itself in a situation dominated by US decisions and rivalries? Prior to dealing with specific countries, it is helpful to first evaluate the Chinese approach to the region as a whole. As mentioned before, China is built on economic development and reasoning - foreign policy decisions are taken following the same logic. Using economic terms to define Chinese behaviour, it takes the form of strategic hedging to keep every actor on board. It is a policy based on risk management and a vision of international relations deeply rooted in a realist balance of power. It is partially connected to a previous wondering, namely the willingness of China to become a superpower. Notably, it is a tactic typical of “second-tier states” in a unipolar system that is gradually deconcentrating. At least from the economic point of view, the desire is there: however, it might appear as a lack of status recognition from within, for now.[5]


Chinese presence is a double-edged sword for the countries in the Middle East hoping to gain an advantage from it. Their relationship has not always been linear. In the ‘60s, China supported insurgents throughout the region and as a result was not seen positively by official governments, whose positions were weakened. Nevertheless, with time and diplomatic effort, Chinese perception changed to a possible partner not interested in interfering with internal dynamics, arguably to the point of criticising the West’s approach while acting as a free-rider with the security provided by the US and its allies. Still being on the stronger side of any possible partnership, it can impose its own views and create a regionalising thrust according to its preferences or needs. The reason why it is easier for a country like China compared to the US lies in the lack of ideological justification on the basis of its cooperations in the region. Non-democratic countries are more comfortable with building relations with China as they know that it will not interfere with their domestic policies, but it will be limited at convergence on economic terms. China does not ask for political and democratic reforms when negotiating agreements. In a region like the Middle East, such a strategy allows for positive relationships to thrive with any state that accepts it - even at a higher degree where the Arab Springs have failed.


Nevertheless, with time and diplomatic effort, Chinese perception changed to a possible partner not interested in interfering with internal dynamics, arguably to the point of criticising the West’s approach while acting as a free-rider with the security provided by the US and its allies.

A Chinese War on the US? Obvious Choices


Before digging deeper into the relationships between China and states in the area, a short excursion on the perception of Chinese actions in the Middle East from a security perspective is needed. The intersection between Chinese and American policies and intentions determines the regional and global environment. First, should both superpowers be waiting for an attack from the other in the Middle East? Probably not. It has been mentioned before that the US should not have such a scenario as a top priority. On the other side, China has proved that it is not interested in becoming a security provider and undertake the US’s role in the region. Security and diplomacy are not Chinese focal areas of interest, it prefers to act as a free-rider, as they are necessary components of the international order, allowing it to rely on the Middle Eastern supply chain.[6]


As long as the US could not see an opponent in its unipolar system, it co-lived according to the “harmonic convergence” model:[7] economy dictated the rules and priorities which is no longer acceptable for the US. Despite the US’s willingness to withdraw from the Middle East, its decision to remain or leave is dependent on factors beyond domestic satisfaction and necessities.[8] Iranian partnerships with China hold it in the region. More optimistic individuals classify the BRI as a simple economic tool, some an attempt to realise regional hegemony, and the more pessimistic view it as a military ambition.[9] Representatives of the last position also support the thesis of a “campaign of political warfare”:[10] its goal would be to present the US as unreliable at an international level while depicting itself as a responsible stakeholder.


Nonetheless, China would never directly confront the US to avoid an adverse reaction from the international community. As a matter of fact, even its alignment with Russia and the “Resistance Alliance” is described as silent. Despite being a senior partner, it is arguably there to take as many benefits as possible such as tiring the US and ruining its prestige to use its economic ties as leverage to impose its primacy, even on US allies. It supports Russian destabilisation, but in the case of failure or dissolving the alliance, it is very likely that it would not actively look for a substitute, rather it would exploit the instruments and allies gathered up until that moment to continue with its strategy of indirect confrontation.


As a matter of fact, even its alignment with Russia and the “Resistance Alliance” is described as silent. Despite being a senior partner, it is arguably there to take as many benefits as possible such as tiring the US and ruining its prestige to use its economic ties as leverage to impose its primacy, even on US allies.

To sum up: it does not matter which perspective the US adopts in its policies, it needs to acknowledge Chinese presence and seemingly pragmatic intentions. Only time can tell whether offensive or defensive realism interpretation is more suitable for the case but at the very least, acknowledgement is necessitated.


China-Middle Eastern Countries: Bilateral Relations


The next step is to briefly highlight the opportunities and threats offered by single states in the region, in this case, Israel and Iran due to their unique relationships with the US. The former is clearly sided with the US, yet China does not classify it as an enemy but an example of a technological innovator (especially in the cyber domain), which would provide gains in sharing industrial intelligence. Entirely on the other end of the spectrum is Iran, whose utility for China is not based on human capital but energy resources. Due to its relationship with the US, it would constitute an easy ally for every possible opponent. The problem arises, however, when dealing with US sanctions which could cause bottlenecks within the oil supply chain.


Entirely on the other end of the spectrum is Iran, whose utility for China is not based on human capital but energy resources.

China and Iran


Iran is not the only partner China has in the region, but for Iran, China is the biggest trading partner and largest source of foreign investment (above 30%). It was not an obvious outcome during the Iran-Iraq war, where China sold weapons to both sides. So how did the two nations end up signing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2016? To understand that, it is fundamental to define Iran according to international relations’ theory. Depending on whether one supports a more defensive-optimistic or a more offensive-pessimist vision, Iranian actions could be seen either as a defence mechanism coming to excessive measures to maintain the status quo or as covered in a false narrative.[11] Both can be worrying on their own, but even more so if connected to the possibilities offered by Chinese support. Regardless, China has not exclusively selected Iran to be a main ally among the Middle Eastern countries. In fact, China is diversifying its investments and due to weaknesses in Iran, it is forced to hedge its risk.


The main rival for Iran, in this case, is Saudi Arabia, which signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as well. While Iran aims to profit from the Saudi alliance with the US to present itself as the best choice, this enmity could create serious troubles for Iranian trading partners, forcing them to rely on other sources to avoid risk. The US sees this competition for support as more motivating for Saudi Arabia to develop close ties with China. Beyond that, it fears the increase in investments which might spark from a discount on oil and create opportunities for Chinese construction firms. This general outline reinforces the economic reasoning behind Chinese actions. Iranian destabilisation of the region is not part of a broader strategy to replace the US. They are no key controller of security issues, especially those related to access to trade. Regardless, there are broad consequences, the tensions created by Iran have double the effect of diversifying the situations where the US has to focus its military attention (towards the Middle East and Western Pacific) and fragment the West behind US leadership.


The US sees this competition for support as more motivating for Saudi Arabia to develop close ties with China. Beyond that, it fears the increase in investments which might spark from a discount on oil and create opportunities for Chinese construction firms.

Choosing Iran also encompasses some positives, being both possible subjects to US sanctions, it represents a way to reduce their effectiveness and diminish their impact. It is unlikely that Iran will follow US directions and introduce an embargo on Chinese products, as it is unlikely that China will submissively accept sanctions on Iran – especially in the oil sector. Undeniably Iran is by far the weaker party, it indeed embodies an investment opportunity for China, particularly due to the almost total absence of competition, yet alternatives exist, so they create a senior and a junior partner.[12] To worsen the situation, Iran is isolated and therefore more undefended from Chinese pressure. It is in China’s best interest not to emphasise this isolation to ensure a successful outcome of the BRI. As it has been said before, a regionalising top-down approach is a key component. The regional dimension of BRI would profit and a new positive role for Iran would arise. If one supports a liberalist perspective of economic interdependence, this newly found interaction of Middle Eastern countries could help stabilise unresolved issues and rivalries. Alongside this hope lies the threat (for the US) of a region no longer in need of its presence and consequently reducing its prestige and reputation.


Israel’s Difficult Position


Israel is the other unicum in the region, as a piece of the West encapsulated in the Middle East, its connection with the US is stronger than that of every other country. Notedly, it is impossible to ignore a commercial partner the size of China. In fact, a relationship based on trade and economic exchanges existed, until the US attempted to put more distance between them for security reasons. Twice, in Israeli-Chinese negotiations over purchases of technology, the US managed to impose a setback on the deals, causing Israel to pay back the prepayment and compensations in addition.[13] The reason being that the object of the agreement was defence technology with the potential of being dual-use and the alleged presence of American components that would have given an excessive advantage to a rival. Still, China continued to be present in critical infrastructural sectors – namely desalinisation and 5G – and has access to the Haifa port – a great concern of the US, with operations in plain sight. As relationships have restarted, the only concrete American success was pressuring Israel to create an advisory committee to assess national security implications of foreign investment.[14] Thus, the goal of separating the two countries has failed on two fronts. Besides trade relations restarting, China never directly blamed Israel for stepping out of deals but was always aware of the manoeuvring of the US, without failing to ask for compensation.


Despite all the opportunities offered by China and the difficulties in decoupling, the choice of the field remains obvious for Israel. Its worst enemy, Iran, is allied with its biggest partner’s – the US – worst enemy, China. Moreover, dealing with China presents a plethora of risks. First, it is interested in Israeli cyber capital, whose application by firms strictly connected to the government is mainly censorship-oriented. Second, allowing a Chinese eye on the ground is a threat to military intelligence, even though this point is raised mainly by the US. Third, returns for Israel would be limited. In the international arena, China does not make proactive choices to support Israel’s legal status, i.e., it did not recognise the US embassy in Jerusalem, sending a double message that it does not second motions of the United Nations favourable to Israel. Returns in economic terms are at risk as well. The policy of China on the appropriation of intellectual property for firms reduces outgoing flows of money, resulting in a donation of human capital. Israeli know-how on counterterrorism, strategy and military are an ambitious prize that China cannot directly aim for as its external relations include its support of Arab and Muslim countries, even as mere rhetoric.


The policy of China on the appropriation of intellectual property for firms reduces outgoing flows of money, resulting in a donation of human capital.

Israel needs to consider the development of the BRI: if the project is successful, sooner or later, it will have to get involved in the initiative. Being such a valuable asset for China, both in itself and due to the functioning of the BRI could constitute some leverage. If it should wait and find itself with no other choice, it could be phagocytised and lose any bargaining chips. Therein lies the possibility for the US to confirm its role to avoid reaching such a point and have Israel choose between bandwagoning and disappearing. The US should not impede ties between the two countries. Instead, it should open a dialogue with Israel on the issue of Chinese penetration. From passively sharing knowledge to actively helping to shape Israeli policy, it would reduce Hamletic doubts on the path to pursue in Israeli-Chinese relations. The lack of ideology on the basis of Chinese actions makes it a dangerous ally, mainly due to the position on the Palestinian issue.


It is impossible to cut all ties with China for Israel at this point, however, going beyond a domestic agenda rooted in economic calculations to recognise the strategic and security issues which come along is the first step to maintain a balance in the Middle East and the global arena.


Regional Consequences: Abraham Accords


As discussed before, there is a concentration of participants in the region besides external actors including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. All of them have attempted to become regional hegemons and antagonisms existed among the aforementioned states: dynamics are now reversed, from the time of the opposition to Pan-Arabism by Iran and Israel and the Iranian-Saudi rivalry for the leadership of the Muslim world. Did it go from a lack of mutual recognition to open rapprochement between Israel and Saudi? The first element to take into consideration is the entanglement of disputes. In what has been described as the part of the world where the Hobbesian logic still regulates international relations, one of the best approaches devised to study it is the “social constructivist with rationalist insights”.[15] In this scenario, Chinese relations with Iran are useful for the Saudi-Israeli side. As for Israel, a unilateral aggressive move is impossible due to the insufficient forces, and to the risk of domino effects, the securitisation[16] superstructure needs Iran’s existence to survive. Israel is actively building up the image of Iran as the new common enemy of the region, bringing on board Arab states while China offers another reason to follow the same logic.


“They're concerned with countering aggression, Iran's aggression and terrorism, which is spread all over the area, they're concerned with all of that and they see Israel again as the power in the area that is willing to stand up, and often speak up for something that they all agree with. I would, in general, say this, when Arabs and Israelis agree on something, I think it's worthwhile paying attention to them.”[17]


Apparently, Israeli efforts to deter Iran from getting a nuclear weapon were rewarded with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), however, due to the last evolutions, US sanctions and withdrawal plus Iranian defections,[18] it was described as “the worst of both worlds”.[19] To Israel, Iran is more threatening than Islamic militias, as they are taken under control by their mutual attrition, which places more steps between them and Israel. Moreover, what was happening in Syria can be defined as a proxy war, weakening the Syrian part of the Resistance Alliance increased the probability of isolating Iran, leaving it more in need of an ally like China.


Even when no major clashes were destabilising the Middle East, the risk of misunderstanding other actors’ moves was higher than elsewhere due to the stronger international anarchy and perception of threat. The US, more specifically Trump’s presidency, exploited this necessity of uniting and clarifying introduced by the new Israeli narrative. On August 13, 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) produced a declaration on the normalisation of relations between them, followed by the one between Israel and Bahrain on September 11th, jointly known as the Abraham Accords.[20] Despite the US’s signature and its role in gathering the other parts, especially convincing Bahrain, the motivation was rooted in domestic pressure to withdraw from the Middle East, without leaving room for further Chinese penetration. By the signatories of the Accords, it is possible to deduce the designated enemies, even if they have different archenemies. Apart from Iran, one can also identify Turkey (backed by Qatar) and Salafi jihadists. The normalisation between Israel and the UAE sends a double message - that Israeli siding with UAE is in opposition to Qatar, taking a more antagonistic stance towards Hamas, which relies on Qatari funding. In addition to that, where is the open rapprochement with Saudi Arabia that was previously mentioned? First, in the subtle partnerships. The UAE is a Saudi ally, and Bahrain depends on Saudi policy and monetary flows. They effectively work together, but it is too early for Saudi Arabia to expose itself. The agreements have been commented on only by the Foreign Minister Prince Faisal and not by Prince Moḥammad bin Salmān in order to protect his reputation in case of failure. The prominence of Saudi Arabia in the Arab world impedes risk and requires it to be the first in normalising relations if new tensions arise. They aim not to undermine the Accords but to wait and see. If they do not work as foreseen, it will constitute a strong precedent and de-incentivise Arab-Israeli dialogue. Failure could be caused by two issues: the Saudi nuclear program and talks on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The first is a concern for Israel in itself and since it could spark a nuclear race in the Middle East. The project creates many opportunities for Chinese investors in Saudi defence needs, which could create distance from those that oppose China’s allies. The second point, involving the OPT, marked a change in Israeli policy, embracing the doctrine of “land for peace”,[21] as the annexation as a priority had to be dropped to create a conversation with Arab countries. However, this renouncement[22] might become a significant bargaining chip for both sides in the future, as now it is already in the narratives of both – in one case as a great gesture aimed to reach peace, in the other as a victory for their Arab brothers. Even on this topic, China can exploit the feeling of abandonment of the Palestinians,[23] joined to the clear anti-Iranian perception of the Accords to undermine them. Still, China finds itself faced with a difficult choice, its allies are evidently on the side that opposes the normalisation in these terms or even ideologically; therefore it could criticise the Abraham Accords for the threat of regional destabilisation they carry with them.[24] On the other hand, it had to react to this not-so-unexpected turning point in Middle Eastern relations as it was a product of Trump’s presidency. It was limited to welcoming normalisation and dialogue but highlighted potential negative consequences. In addition to that, the agreements created room for market development within the region whereby local partners might decrease the necessity for external investments, reducing Chinese presence and leverage.[25]


The US, more specifically Trump’s presidency, exploited this necessity of uniting and clarifying introduced by the new Israeli narrative.

Are we Assisting a Paradigm Shift?


The Middle East remains one of the most studied regions of the world and as such, this paper contributes to explaining the reasons behind the choice of area. The theoretical ground was the study of great power politics as one of the five driving forces[26] of International Security Studies. Among its components, amity and enmity patterns of the superpowers are a significant determinant, but in this case, the focus was shifted to the relations in regions where they are present and involved in more or less open confrontation. The US and China, alongside Israel and Iran, depicted a contemporary case study. They interact with each other and other local actors to create a complex web whose international anarchy is enhanced by the conditions of the arena. Superpowers are not the only force behind the choices of their junior partners. Still, they can exercise intense pressure and enforce decisions. For instance, the polarisation in the Middle East was already in progress, as Saudi-Israeli entente, but it became a matter of global relevance. It is difficult to assert whether one formation will win or collapse at present. The purpose of this paper was not to side in favour of one front, but rather to analyse weaknesses and strengths and, wherever it is appropriate, provide policy advice.

A couple of reflections that could profit from this paper: first, are we assisting a paradigm shift? We are seeing alignments composed by former enemies or opposing ideologies in a region to avoid at all costs; taking sides is fundamental for superpowers, even if mainly to ensure that the gap in gains is sufficiently high.[27] As it happened with Vietnam, great powers’ fate is decided in apparently remote areas of the world in a mutual mechanism of constraints. Have they prepared effective strategies, or are they even ready to accept them? It leads to the second possible reflection, namely, do providers find themselves facing a zero or a positive-sum game? Depending on the answer, the interaction of superpowers might evolve in a more or less aggressive attitude towards one another, and consequently with and amongst their supporters.


Superpowers are not the only force behind the choices of their junior partners. Still, they can exercise intense pressure and enforce decisions. For instance, the polarisation in the Middle East was already in progress, as Saudi-Israeli entente, but it became a matter of global relevance

 

Alessia Busi’s main interests include the Middle East, International Law, International Security, Diplomacy, Terrorism. Her academic fields of expertise include International Relations, Diplomacy and Security. Busi’s past work includes “Boğaziçi University under attack: resistance against the violence of heterosexualism”, which was published under the Security Praxis platform. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.

 

[1] Hisahiro Kondoh, “Unilateralism versus Multilateralism? Emerging Countries and Emerging Multilateralisms,” Journal of International Development Studies, Vol. 28 (3) (2019).

[2] Mercy A. Kuo, “China and the Middle East: Conflict and Cooperation,” The Diplomat, December 01, 2020.

[3] Halford Mackinder, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” The Geographical Journal, Vol. 23 (4) (1904).

[4] Dimitri Kitsikis, L'Empire ottoman, 3rd edition,(Paris: Presses Universitaires de France – PUF, 1985), 15.

[5] However, these policies have been used for long now by China: by now, they might be seen as a normal and effective approach to foreign affairs - no longer a tactic to overcome the sole superpower.

[6] Mercy A. Kuo, “China and the Middle East”.

[7] Michael Doran and Peter Rough, “China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom,” Tablet Magazine, August 03, 2020.

[8] The topic was discussed in Congress and some of the reasons listed in this paper are derived by: Jon B. Alterman, Chinese and Russian Influence in the Middle East. Congressional testimony, Washington, DC., May 09, 2019.

[9] Despite this fear, to the date the only base is in Gwadar (Pakistan) and, according to what has been declared, just for commercial purposes – however, in the US perspective, it can be a legitimate source of concern.

[10] Michael Doran and Peter Rough, “China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom”.

[11] Idem.

[12] Nora Maher, “Balancing deterrence: Iran-Israel relations in a turbulent Middle East,” Review of Economics and Political Science, Vol. ahead of print (EarlyCite) (2020).

[13] The two events to which it is referring to the negotiation for the selling of the Phalcon Airborne Early Warning System in 2000 and of the HARPY unmanned aerial vehicles in 2005.

[14] Statement by Israeli Security Cabinet, Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (30 October 2019).

[15] Definition coined after comparing different approaches by: Martin Beck, “The Aggravated Struggle for Regional Power in the Middle East: American Allies Saudi Arabia and Israel versus Iran,” Global Policy, Vol. 11 (2020).

Primordialism is limited as it fails to explain the entanglement of issues, realism-instrumentalism does not manage to clear the choice of allies, liberalism finds itself lost due to the absence of functioning institutions and presence of authoritarianisms. A positivist approach joints the most useful insights of the three perspectives with the importance of identities.

[16] Martin Beck uses the Copenhagen’s School notion of securitisation by Barry Buzan (et al,), whose meaning is the extreme form of politicisation created by speech acts, exaggerating and presenting the issue as an existential threat or a matter of supreme priority and calling for extraordinary measures beyond everyday politics.

[17] Conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Mike Doran (December 03, 2020).

[18] Iranian defections are declared as a path to save the deal, not to eliminate it: from its perspective, it succeeded in breaking the security in its favour. Iran proposed the way of diplomacy, encouraging remaining signatories to create and implement measures to preserve it. According to international law doctrines, providing a justification for a violation of a treaty reinforces the treaty itself, therefore confirming the Iranian attempt to abide to international obligations or at least to present itself like so.

[19] Conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Mike Doran (December 03, 2020).

[20] The agreement with the UAE was officially titled “The Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel”. The agreement between Bahrain and Israel was officially titled “The Abraham Accords: Declaration of Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations”.

[21] Legalistic interpretation of the UN Security Council Resolution 242/1967, conditioning peace to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories.

[22] Depending on the perspective, authors consider it a change in Israeli policy, or a simply temporary measure exploited for this deal.

[23] Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian during a media briefing mentioned that the measures tackling regional tensions and instability pleased China, highlighting Chinese support to the Palestinian people in their “just cause” for the building of a sovereign state (August 14, 2020).

[24] These accusations have been partially proved wrong by the Al-Ula Manifest (January 05, 2020), which ends the blockade imposed on Qatar by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Analysts have observed how this rapprochement was motivated by the tensions with Iran, but not necessarily as a threat.

[25] On the other hand, the formalisation of clandestine ties offers more opportunities to China.

[26] Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen, The Evolution of International Security Studies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

[27] Joseph Grieco…[et al.], “The Relative-Gains Problem for International Cooperation,” The American Political Science Review, Vol. 87 (3) (1993), 727–743.

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