Former Israeli diplomat warns China already a Mideast power, may use Syria to grow influence

Michael Oren says Beijing has been gaining a foothold in the region and may use rebuilding Syria as a means for growing influence.

Updated: March 31, 2021 - 12:15pm

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    China is "already a power" in the Middle East and may look to further supplant U.S. influence in the region when it comes time to rebuild war-torn Syria, Israel's former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren warns.

    "If you ask me, China will be involved in rebuilding Syria because no other country is going to be capable of doing it," Oren told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Tuesday. "You know, the Russians don't have the money. The Iranians are not going to do it. China could do it and do it quickly."

    "The UN bill for rebuilding Syria stands at a minimum $250 billion," he added. "And so if China rebuilds Syria, they are a Middle Eastern power."


    Oren provided an overview of Beijing's growing influence in a region long impacted by U.S. involvement. China has built the largest military base in Africa at the entrance of the Red Sea, right next to the American military base, Oren explained, "So you could say, militarily, they're controlling that entrance."

    Also, China is "poised to build two ports on the Persian Gulf," he added, and is already "rebuilding [Israel's] two major ports of Haifa and Ashdod," and building the Tel Aviv subway system. "So the Chinese are here," Oren said of his own homeland.

    Oren said China operates "in a different way than the West operates. Classically, the West comes in with an army, and then later, after that, the businessmen will come in. The Chinese do it the other way — they bring the businessmen in first."

    "They have built 35 ports around the world," Oren continued. "They have a multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road system that will — all roads will lead to China. So it puts a very pro-Western, pro-American country like Israel in a difficult situation."

    With regard to the Biden administration, Oren said that his concern is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party will push the president towards reentering the Iran nuclear deal, something his team has not yet started.

    "The one point of concern I have — and I'm saying this for the first time publicly, so brace yourself — is that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to rush ahead and renew the JCPOA, which wants to pressure Israel, then — even using the aid to pressure Israel — was very quiet during the Obama years."

    "They were afraid of Obama and much smaller during the Obama years. Now, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is much, much bigger, and I don't think they're afraid of this administration. So I think that their agenda, and the pressure to apply their agenda, certainly will be much greater during this administration than it was from 2009 to 2016."