A “Chinese base” in the UAE… Has Abu Dhabi become a “doubtful” ally of Washington?
Washington – A report published by The Wall Street Journal – on China’s construction of a military facility in the UAE – raised alarms in Washington about the credibility of the Emirati ally, its ability to maneuver and risk its strong relationship with the United States of America.
وكشف the report Washington has thwarted the Chinese endeavor to build a military base in the Emirates, hours before US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began a tour of Gulf countries.
In a press briefing last Thursday, a US official at the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) pointed out that “focusing on the challenges posed by China does not mean leaving the region,” explaining that “despite questions about the United States’ commitment to the region, it maintains tens of thousands of soldiers in a number of the rules”.
It is noteworthy that China has had a limited number of military bases abroad, including a naval base in Djibouti, since 2017, with the aim of facilitating operations around the Indian Ocean and Africa.
In recent years, China has strengthened its economic relations with the UAE, and it has become one of its largest trading partners in the region, and the UAE has also strengthened its dealings with the Chinese company “Huawei”, which Washington has banned due to concerns related to its relations with the Communist Party and the Chinese army, and fears of widespread espionage operations accusing it by the company.
Insurance against US withdrawal
In his interview with Al Jazeera Net, William Lawrence – a former official at the US State Department and a lecturer at George Washington University – considered that talk about China building a military base in the UAE is mostly correct, adding that “the UAE wants to diversify its security relations, which is a good step in theory, but They stopped out of fear of American anger.”
For her part, Irina Tuskerman, a national security expert, pointed out that the news of the construction of the base did not surprise her, noting that “China is looking for both military and commercial influence in the Gulf, and is taking advantage of the vacuum caused by the American retreat and Washington’s desire to withdraw from the region.”
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Tuskerman considered that the administration of former President Donald Trump began this path by calling for the withdrawal of US forces from the region, and the singular thinking of the Biden administration – which seeks to restore the Iranian nuclear agreement – also increased the diplomatic division between the United States and its allies in the region. .
The expert stressed that Beijing is looking for any opportunity to increase its military presence, at least as a competitor to the United States, if not push it to leave the region significantly, she said.
alliance and rapprochement
Regarding the UAE’s rationale for seeking rapprochement with China at a time when it has a deep alliance with the United States, Traskerman indicated that the UAE believes that having relations with geo-strategic competitors puts it in a beneficial position, as the two powers compete for influence and present the ally state with greater importance in their pursuit of hegemony. Through financial, political and economic incentives.
This would not have happened, she said, in a situation where the UAE believed that the United States was ready to exercise its influence and protect the region in a clear way, when the United States allowed its power to be weakened, its allies would find it useful to negotiate and rapprochement with others.
The future of the “F-35”
In this context, the conclusion of an American intelligence analysis concluded that the UAE’s move – which hosts thousands of American soldiers and seeks to purchase advanced F-35 fighter jets and advanced drones – left doubts about the credibility of the Emirati ally in Washington.
But so far, there is no evidence that what was referred to as a Chinese military base will have any effect on the planned sales of F-16s and advanced models of drones that the UAE wants to acquire.
Traskerman noted that, “Unlike Turkey, which purchased S-400 missile systems directly from Russia, the UAE has not yet purchased weapons capable of competing with their American counterparts, and there is no reason to believe that Abu Dhabi will share sensitive military technologies.” with Beijing.
In turn, former State Department official William Lawrence did not rule out that the recent news would affect the UAE’s pursuit of F-35 fighters and advanced drones, stressing that opposition to it within Congress would escalate after this development.
For her part, Traskerman demanded that the news of China’s interest in the military presence in the Gulf be “a wake-up call so that the Biden administration reconsiders the signals it sends to its allies,” warning that “the UAE or others if it is convinced that the United States is not a reliable ally and is ready to sacrifice.” With its security interests for the sake of the Iran deal, it will turn to others to ensure additional security and maneuverability more easily in geopolitical terms.”
It is noteworthy that Abu Dhabi and Washington have strong military relations that include huge sales of advanced weapons, training programs, strategic planning and joint exercises. According to State Department data, the United States has supplied the UAE with $28.1 billion in arms since 2014.
The United States classifies the UAE as a “major non-NATO ally”. The two countries also signed a defense cooperation agreement in 1994, the terms of which have remained secret until now.