Seeing a leadership vacuum in the Middle East, Beijing may be moving toward military involvement in Iraq. As the Financial Times reports:
China has offered to help Iraq defeat Sunni extremists with support for air strikes, according to Ibrahim Jafari, Iraq’s foreign minister.
Wang Yi, Mr Jafari’s Chinese counterpart, made the offer to help defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, when the two men met in New York at September’s UN antiterrorism meeting, Mr Jafari said.Any Chinese assistance would be outside the US-led coalition. “[Mr Wang] said, our policy does not allow us to get involved in the international coalition,” Mr Jafari told the Financial Times in Tehran, where he was attending an anti-extremism conference earlier this week.
If China follows through, it will be acting alongside the Iraqi government, the Iranian advisors, and the American-led coalition. What four years ago was an American-occupied country will have become a multiple-power venture.For China’s part, this move is a continuation of a trend. Beijing is tacitly cooperating with the United States in Afghanistan, with which it shares a small border, because it is concerned about terrorist activity in its neighboring, Muslim-majority province, Xinjiang. More adventurously, the Chinese Navy has recently been building closer ties with Iran. China seems to be feeling its oats in the Middle East.Americans sometimes think that we give a free ride to too many other nations, and wonder why other world leaders don’t share the burden in responding to problems beyond their borders. This thinking, among other things, spawned the “lead from behind” strategy: messy situations like these are the result.