Heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia and Iran for oil, China cannot afford a full-scale war in the region
By Richard Javad Heydarian
The ongoing Saudi-Iranian diplomatic crisis has quickly morphed into a full-scale regional Cold War.
Shortly after protesters stormed the Saudi embassy and consulate in Tehran and Mashhad, Saudi Arabia chose to cut off diplomatic ties with Iran. Other Sunni Arab nations, from Bahrain and Qatar to Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, have followed suit by either downgrading or totally severing their diplomatic ties with the Shia powerhouse.
Worried about a dangerous escalation of regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has already affected conflict-ridden nations such as Yemen and Syria, world powers have stepped in.
The Obama administration called for maintenance of “diplomatic engagement and direct conversations”, while John Kerry, the US secretary of state, directly appealed to his Iranian and Saudi counterparts to de-escalate tensions.
A Russian official, meanwhile, has indicated Moscow’s willingness to mediate “the settlement of existing and emerging discords” between the two estranged neighbours.
Both Washington and Moscow are worried that the Saudi-Iranian spat will torpedo ongoing efforts at bringing about peace in Syria, while undermining the prospects of mobilising an international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). China is another major power that is deeply worried about the geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East.
The Asian juggernaut is heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia and Iran for oil. And it can’t afford a full-scale conflagration in a region, which is the source of the bulk (51.2 percent) of its energy imports.
Confronting a burgeoning insurgency in its Muslim-populated regions, particularly in Xinjiang, Beijing is also worried about how worsening sectarian disputes in the Middle East will further fuel extremist ideology, providing a haven for international terror groups, which have China in their crosshair. Read more