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Home » Press Review: Hospital Attack Fuels More Mideast Fury and Russia Backs China’s BRI Project

Press Review: Hospital Attack Fuels More Mideast Fury and Russia Backs China’s BRI Project

by Kan Khine
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MOSCOW, October 19. /TASS/. The attack on a hospital in the Gaza Strip has changed the complex equation of the conflict in the Middle East; Moscow is highlighting, with President Putin’s two-day visit to China, its strong interest in Beijing’s marquee Belt and Road Initiative; and UN restrictions on Iran have officially expired. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

A strike on a hospital in the Gaza Strip has sparked anti-Israeli protests in a number of Middle Eastern countries. Meanwhile, Israel is working to shore up Western support, vowing to prove that its forces were not involved in the incident, Izvestia writes.

The hospital attack has negatively affected US diplomatic efforts to persuade other countries to take a tougher stance on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This had been the primary purpose of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, Boris Dolgov, lead researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Asian Studies, said. However, Washington effectively failed in this effort. “In my view, the recent developments, especially the strike on a hospital in the Gaza Strip, may escalate anti-Israeli and, accordingly, anti-American attitudes in the Muslim world,” the expert pointed out.

“The most influential countries in the region, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, have an ambiguous attitude toward Hamas. This is why it’s not possible for them to cheer about what Hamas is doing. The problem, however, is that Hamas positions itself as the leader of the Palestinian resistance and, so, lashing out at the group could boomerang on them because the [Arab] public would perceive [strong criticism by leading Arab countries] as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause,” Tatyana Tyukayeva, researcher with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), noted. She emphasized that regional powers were therefore seeking to demonstrate a balanced approach.

Experts believe that the protest wave will grow with time, although the trend will depend on how the situation on the ground unfolds. “All countries in the region are very fearful of a large-scale conflict, a rise in tensions and a new wave of instability because everyone remembers what happened ten years ago; I’m talking about the ‘Arab Spring.’ Total instability would benefit no one at this point, and so all governments are doing their best to restrain themselves,” Tyukayeva explained.

Media: What drives Moscow’s interest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Russian President Vladimir Putin has concluded his two-day visit to China. On the first day, October 17, the Russian leader held six bilateral meetings. On the second day, he took part in the opening ceremony of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vedomosti writes.

Close cooperation with other countries is important for Russia as Moscow is interested in rapidly developing infrastructure in Siberia and the Russian Far East. This is the way to ensure long-term demand for the country’s pipelines, road network and other infrastructure, Alexander Lomanov, head of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), said.

From a political perspective, such cooperation is a good example of solving problems without putting value-and policy-related pressure on anyone, the expert noted. The West is consolidating through forming blocs, which is actually fencing it off from the rest of the world, he added. By contrast, participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing’s marquee international commercial infrastructure project, does not necessarily imply the need to pledge allegiance to Chinese political ideals, Lomanov stressed.

The analyst sees no risks in the Russia-China convergence. “Our interests will remain similar or the same for at least the next ten to 15 years, which include protecting our sovereignty and searching for non-destructive approaches to reforming global governance institutions,” he said.

For Moscow, it is currently important “to promote the confluence” of the Eurasian Economic Union and BRI-related projects, Russian International Affairs Council Program Manager Yulia Melnikova told Izvestia. According to her, Russia would like to attract Chinese investment in its own infrastructure projects and work together with China and other partners on forming a greater Eurasian space.

The agenda for Russia-China cooperation includes an ongoing conversation concerning a new vision for the world, ways for ending longstanding confrontations between groups of countries and fostering cooperation between the nations of the Global South, Alexey Maslov, director of Moscow State University’s Institute of Asian and African Studies, explained.

The financial and legal restrictions on Iran that were imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 were terminated on October 18. This effectively means that, under international law, Tehran can now freely engage in arms trading and demand that its frozen assets be released. However, Washington and Moscow have refused to lift sanctions, but Moscow fully intends to exercise the legal right to engage with Iran in certain areas to boost its cooperative relations with Tehran, Izvestia writes.

Middle East expert Andrey Ontikov points out that there are no longer any formal or legal obstacles that hinder cooperation in the field of missile technologies. “In fact, countries such as Russia and China, which are permanent members of the UN Security Council, are not supposed to face any restrictions in this area anymore. Additionally, limitations on Iran’s financial and economic activities related to the missile industry have also been lifted, along with a number of restrictions that the European Union and other players imposed on certain individuals and legal entities,” the expert maintained.

The expiration of the UN restrictions on Iran is opening up prospects for Moscow to expand its defense cooperation with Tehran, Nina Mamedova, lead researcher with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Asian Studies, noted.

“Both countries are interested in this; they have things to purchase and export. The Iranians have been looking forward to it with great optimism. Perhaps, Russia will now gain more access to the Iranian market. In addition, Russia and Iran already hold joint drills, which is a kind of defense cooperation. Moscow is also interested in participating in the exercises that Iran holds in its southern seas. This is an area where the sanctions do not apply,” the expert concluded.

The United Kingdom’s First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Ben Key, has lambasted the slow approval process for the handover of US defense technologies. In his view, the delays reduce the effectiveness of London and Washington’s activities in the Asia-Pacific region within the AUKUS bloc, Vedomosti notes.

The leaders of Australia, the UK and the US announced the establishment of a trilateral defense partnership, dubbed AUKUS, in September 2021. The new military bloc’s stated priority was to create a nuclear submarine fleet in Australia and develop cyber security technologies, but thus far no progress has been achieved.

The fine print of US legislation on arms exports are not the only stumbling block. In particular, the US side is reluctant to share technologies particularly because it is seeking to protect the competitive edge of its domestic manufacturers, Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), said. The expert points out that, as commander-in-chief of US forces, President Joe Biden has the authority to smooth the path for such technology transfers, but “he will not go against American [defense sector] manufacturers.”

In addition, in Kashin’s words, the US understands that neither the British nor the Australians possess the required capacity to build nuclear submarines. “Washington believes that it would be easier and cheaper for them [the Americans] to do it all on their own because it would take the British longer to build [submarines], while the Australians would hardly be able to use these technologies in the near future,” the expert stressed.

Admiral Key’s remarks reflect the British government’s position that, in exchange for London’s agreeing to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region, the US must ensure that the UK is provided with a significant volume of the necessary gear, Yelena Ananyeva, head of the British Studies Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, noted. According to her, the US has for years been attempting to drag the UK into an unprofitable standoff with China, which has thus prompted the British to actively remind their key ally “across the pond” in Washington of its allied obligations.

The unfolding conflict in the Middle East is steadily pushing oil prices towards the $100 per barrel mark. Prices are rising even though military activities have so far had no direct impact on market saturation, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.

US hopes for agreements with Iran and the lifting of sanctions on Iranian oil exports have been dashed. This means that the global market will not have additional volumes of oil and, thus, prices will continue to rise. In addition, risks are rising that Arab countries will support Palestine economically, thus reducing supplies to Europe.

Fighting illegal supplies of Russian oil and oil products to Europe, as well as their maritime exports above the price cap, makes no sense in the current situation and is even harmful to those countries that initiated sanctions on Russia.

Valery Andrianov, associate professor at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation and an expert at the Infotek think tank, believes that the price cap mechanism has proven to be useless. Russian oil is being freely traded at prices above the cap, and the issues of maritime transportation and cargo insurance have generally been resolved.

The West will neither lift nor ease sanctions on the Russian oil industry, however, even if, for some reason, supplies from the Middle East are disrupted, the expert said, noting that the West’s stubborn stance is driven by the need to avoid a complete loss of face. European officials are more likely to turn a blind eye to possible violations of the oil embargo and price cap, “overlooking” supplies of oil originating from Russia to the European market. As for Washington, which is interested in completely cutting Europe off from Russian energy resources, it will merely express half-hearted irritation at the fact of such sanctions-busting shipments.

Source : TASS

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