Concerns over China’s deepening involvement in the Middle East — The last few days have reached a peak A Beijing-brokered diplomatic deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia – came into focus yesterday as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned Martina Anna Tkadlek Strong and Karen Sasahara, U.S. embassy Nominees for the ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, respectively.
Lawmakers expressed concern at the hearing about increased cooperation between the UAE and China, especially on military and high-tech issues. They highlighted currently stalled plans for arms sales to the UAE, in part due to U.S. concerns about increased cooperation between the UAE and China, as well as reports that China is seeking to build military facilities within the UAE.
“We are very clear with our partners in the region, including the UAE, that certain categories of cooperation with China will be very direct [against] And directly impact our American national security interests,” Strong said. “That message has been delivered. We believe our partners in the region are very aware of our concerns. “
Addressing China’s growing challenge will also require the US to “strengthen our partnership with the UAE,” Strong added. She said administration officials have been “very focused” on China in their ongoing dialogue with the UAE, and if confirmed, she would make it a “top priority” — emphasizing in particular the potential for Chinese involvement in the UAE’s telecommunications infrastructure to be threatening to U.S. security cooperation.
Strong noted that administration officials will brief Council on Foreign Relations staff privately on the military base issue on Thursday.
Sasahara, a Kuwaiti candidate who served as consul general in Jerusalem, said she shared concerns about “China’s aggressive security cooperation and commercial exploration in the region” and also pledged to confront the issue.
“We can’t be complacent. We have to stay in the moment,” she said. “We have to get involved, we cannot cede space to China or any other country.”
Lawmakers directly addressed the China-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and China yesterday.
Haggerty said it should be a “wake-up call for us” and expressed concern about the Biden administration’s comments that the deal was seen as a potential positive. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Previously expressed concern to JI Regarding China’s growing role in the region, emphasizing that Saudi-Iran peace would be a positive development for the region.
Strong is currently the charge d’affaires in Saudi Arabia; on Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm incoming ambassador Michael Ratney. Ratney himself was present at Wednesday’s hearing, supporting his wife, Sasahara, a candidate for U.S. representation in Kuwait.
Strong was wary of the Saudi-Iran deal, suggesting the U.S. is aware of Saudi efforts to reconcile with Tehran. She said the US supported Saudi Arabia’s desire to seek “diplomatic means to reduce tension in the region”, while warning that it “remains to be seen” whether Iran would actually honor its commitments in the deal. If the deal comes to fruition, Strong said it would be “a positive development”.
“What’s not and shouldn’t be a problem is our partnership with Saudi Arabia and in my future, if it’s confirmed, with the UAE,” she added. It’s a more competitive environment. But we need to step up and engage, certainly not conceding to China or any other strategic or regional competitor.”
More broadly, Strong urged lawmakers to engage directly with Saudi Arabia, emphasizing that “they need to hear your concerns” because the Saudis don’t always “fully understand our concerns and your concerns are based on Some very core concerns … affect our national security, which could affect our foreign policy priorities.”
At questioning, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who chairs the committee’s Middle East subcommittee, and Sen. Bill Haggerty (R-TN), who served as acting chair and ranking member for Wednesday’s meeting, took action on the issue. took a different approach to the US-UAE relationship.
Murphy described Strong as painting an overly “optimistic” picture of U.S.-UAE relations, stressing that the UAE is a “dictatorship” and arguing that it “doesn’t always exercise [its] influence in a way that supports U.S. interests,” and described it as willingly “at the center of attempts to support Russia against Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Hagerty highlighted the “deep history of friendship and cooperation” between the UAE and the US, as well as the UAE’s role on regional energy, commerce and security issues.
Strong described the relationship as “critical to U.S. national security at a time when our interests in a region are being challenged by conventional and asymmetric threats” and pledged support for U.S. businesses in the UAE. She added that the U.S. has been grappling with sanctions and exports and is working to pressure UAE authorities to deal with the detained Americans.
In her testimony, Strong also highlighted the promise of the Abraham Accords.
“Using this opportunity and expanding the growing cooperation between the UAE and Israel will support our shared goals of peace, prosperity and greater integration in the Middle East,” Strong said. “This historic achievement should be our focus, and certainly, if confirmed, it will be my focus because I think it can underpin a lot of positive developments. We’ve certainly seen a lot of what has been achieved.”
She expressed support for efforts to create an integrated air and sea defense architecture in the region, describing the recently opened Abraham Family Home Embody “common values such as interfaith tolerance”.
Commission Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), in her Kuwait post, urged Sasahara to work to bring Kuwait into the Abraham Accords. She promised to assess “what is possible” on the ground if confirmed.
“I share your disappointment that Kuwait has not joined the Abraham Accords. Not even thinking about it has the potential to be left behind in the region and possibly become an outsider, which can be very significant in today’s global markets and strategic security environment in the region Dangerous,” she said. “We’ve seen the benefits of the Abraham Accords.”
In introductory remarks, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) praised Strong for helping negotiate the $37 billion Saudi purchase of U.S.-made Boeing airliners announced earlier this week. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), while criticizing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, cited the Boeing deal as a positive development in U.S.-Saudi relations.