PRESIDENT Xi Jinping is casting a weak Britain aside to make China the kingmaker in the Middle East as the despot vies for world domination, a security expert has warned. 

For years, Xi has been shoring up support for China in the Middle East in a bid to cast Beijing in a leading role in the region’s politics – a part previously reserved for the US and UK in the West.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2022

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2022Credit: AP
Newly recruited university students shout slogans during a protest against US-led strikes on Houthi positions, at Sana'a University, in Yemen in February 2024

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Newly recruited university students shout slogans during a protest against US-led strikes on Houthi positions, at Sana’a University, in Yemen in February 2024Credit: EPA
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery unit, using a self-propelled artillery howitzer, fires towards Gaza near the border in December 2023 in Southern Israel

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An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery unit, using a self-propelled artillery howitzer, fires towards Gaza near the border in December 2023 in Southern IsraelCredit: Getty

And now, Barak Seener, a senior Research Fellow at the UK-based think tank Henry Jackson Society, has warned China’s power in the region has only increased since the Israel-Hamas war and the Red Sea attacks on commercial vessels by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Mr Seener, founder of the geopolitical risk assessment and consultancy firm Strategic Intelligenta, told The Sun that China’s aim in the region is to wield even more power and to destroy the UK and US’s influence in the Middle East.

He said by casting Britain and the US aside in the war-torn region, China will be crowned the kingmaker in the Middle East.

The region is the source of much of the oil Beijing needs and a nexus in Xi’s huge infrastructure-building project to connect markets around the world to extend the nation’s influence. 

“Beijing shares similar interests to Tehran when it comes to ensuring the long term faltering of UK and US influence in the Middle East,” Mr Seener said ahead of the launch of his Henry Jackson Society report on Thursday.

“China has used its economic purchasing power and diplomacy to secure its geopolitical interests in the region.

“The fact that Arab and Muslim ministers chose Beijing as their first destination to meet all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council last November demonstrated the centrality that China has acquired in the ongoing Middle East crisis,” Mr Seener added.

Mr Seener said in order to halt China in its tracks, the UK and US must become signatories of the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords.

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The Abraham Accords is a peace pact signed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco with Israel in a bid to stabilise the region through increased ties between the nations.

He explained that the threads tying the Abraham Accords together are becoming increasingly strained since Israel launched a withering military campaign in Gaza in response to the October 7 attacks by Iran-backed Hamas terrorists.

And growing anger in the Arab world over Israel’s military operation in Gaza – which has killed at least 29,000 people according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the enclave – has so far scuppered plans for Saudi Arabia to sign the Abraham Accords, Mr Seener said. 

“With Israel’s war ongoing, the Abraham Accords remain frozen, waiting for new diplomatic efforts to revive their potential,” Mr Seener said in the report. 

Israel blasts Hezbollah command centres in Lebanon and Hamas terror targets in Gaza

“At the same time, the new Western-facing regional order promised by the Accords is under threat from the growing influence of China in the region.

“This means the need to unfreeze the Accords, and regain the initiative, all the more important.”

Mr Seener warned that China will become the kingmaker in the Middle East and the UK cast aside if Britain does not become a co-signatory of the Accords. 

“The Abraham Accords will become increasingly resilient as more Western Nations become signatories,” Harley Lippman, a board member of the Partnership for the Peace Fund of the US Agency for International Development, added in the report. 

“This will have the effect of deepening the Accords, broadening its appeal for states like Saudi Arabia to normalise relations with Israel and integrate its military systems within the region’s emerging security architecture.” 

China and Iran’s chiling axis

BEIJING shares similar interests to Tehran when it comes to ensuring the long term faltering of U.K. and U.K. influence in the Middle East, writes Barak Seener.

Iran bolstered its proxies – Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthi – to undermine the Abraham Accords and prevent Saudi Arabia from normalising relations with Israel. 

China has used its economic purchasing power and diplomacy to secure its geopolitical interests – the fact that Arab and Muslim ministers chose Beijing as their first destination to meet all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council last November demonstrated the centrality that China has acquired in the ongoing Middle East crisis.

As well as being a mediator in the Iran-Saudi deal last March, Beijing pressed Tehran to rein in the Houthis following their attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea. It is clear there is still time for Britain to play a leading role in the region.

But Whitehall must leverage its joint military exercises with the US and Gulf allies and bolster its economic and diplomatic clout in the region.

By increasing its military expenditure and signing onto the Abraham Accords, Britain could position itself to work more closely alongside the US to foster greater military integration between GCC states and Israel.  

Britain could contribute towards deepening and entrenching the Accords, which, in turn, would contribute to signatories maintaining their pro-Western strategic orientation rather than turning towards China.

Mr Lippman added: “This serves the dual purpose of increasing deterrence vis a vis Iran while preventing Gulf Cooperation Council states from gravitating towards China’s sphere of influence.” 

Mr Seener said it’s in the UK’s “geostrategic interest” to broaden the Abraham Accords and see them “flourish”.

“The accords are designed to serve as the keystone of a new Middle East, stabilised and aligned with Western interests but with its security underpinned by a much smaller American footprint,” he explained.

“The UK’s access to the Arabian Gulf continues to rely on American power, and as the US pivots away from the region towards Asia, it is essential that we help to advance a new regional order which is in line with our interests.”

CHINA’S THREAT TO WEST

Mr Seener warned that with Washington shifting its attention and military resources away from the Gulf, local powers are seeking “new sources of security with US competitors that have entered the vacuum, including Russia and China. 

“Equally, the more China’s economic ties to the region expand, the more likely Beijing will feel the need for a larger military footprint to protect its interests.”

“This threatens to cut off other Western powers, including the UK. The UK cannot solely depend on the US’s security umbrella in the region,” Mr Seener warned, adding that Britain must increase its military presence in the region to ensure stability.

But China and its allies will be looking at the UK today with vigour after a Trident 2 missile dramatically misfired and crashed into the ocean yards from the British nuclear submarine that launched it. 

HMS Vanguard was under the surface but was not hit by the 44ft missile as it plunged back into the Atlantic

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HMS Vanguard was under the surface but was not hit by the 44ft missile as it plunged back into the AtlanticCredit: Military Picture Libary
It is the second failed test since 2016, when a Trident fired from HMS Vengeance veered off course and self-destructed

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It is the second failed test since 2016, when a Trident fired from HMS Vengeance veered off course and self-destructed
Xi (centre) talks with United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (left) at the opening of the G20 Summit in Bali in 2022

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Xi (centre) talks with United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (left) at the opening of the G20 Summit in Bali in 2022Credit: Reuters
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (left) and Xi (right) meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December 2022

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Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (left) and Xi (right) meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December 2022
Members of the Ezz-Aldine Al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, marching with their guns in the streets of Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip in 2021

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Members of the Ezz-Aldine Al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, marching with their guns in the streets of Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip in 2021
Smoke rises over Gaza during Israeli bombardment as seen from the Israeli side of the border in January 2024 in Southern Israel

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Smoke rises over Gaza during Israeli bombardment as seen from the Israeli side of the border in January 2024 in Southern Israel

The second failed launch in a row – after a misfire in 2016 – happened while Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was on board HMS Vanguard to witness the test off Florida. 

Meanwhile, China continues to cast its grip around the Middle East, with the Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce being present in the Gulf of Aden and along Africa’s east coast.

Beijing is also funding a base at the military base at the Khalifa Port near Abu Dhabi as part of Xi’s bid to expand China’s military network across the globe.

Indeed, China has maintained close ties with Iran, largely based on investment and oil imports, largely based on investment and oil imports. 

And in a sign of China’s growing power in the region, in March 2023, Beijing hosted talks in the restoration of Tehran’s diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. 

Beijing has been trying to maintain a delicate balance since the Israel-Hamas war erupted late last year as Xi wants to position his nation as a mediator and to exert yet more influence in the region. 

Who are the Houthis?

THE Houthi rebels are terrorising vessels and warships in the Red Sea – but who are they?

The Shia militant group, which now controls most of Yemen, spent over a decade being largely ignored by the world.

However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war they sprung from relative obscurity to holding roughly £1trillion of world trade hostage – turning one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into an active warzone.

Their warped slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.

Why are they attacking ships?

The rebel group has been launching relentless drone and missile attacks on any ships – including warships – they deem to be connected with Israel in solidarity with their ally Hamas.

The sea assaults have threatened to ignite a full-blown war in the Middle East as ripples from Israel’s war in Gaza are felt across the region – with Iran suspected of stoking the chaos.

However, there have been frequent attacks on commercial vessels with little or no link to Israel – forcing global sea traffic to halt operations in the region and sending shipping prices soaring.

Houthi attacks in the Red Sea increased 50 per cent between November and December.

The rebel group’s leaders have previously pledged the attacks will continue until Israel stops its devastating offensive inside Gaza – despite recent US and UK strikes on their military strongholds.

And as well as being a mediator in the Iran-Saudi deal last March, Mr Seener pointed to how Beijing pressed Tehran to rein in the Houthis following their relentless attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea – a move that saw UK and US airstrikes hit several targets in Yemen.

For Mr Seener, Britain will only avoid being cast to the wayside if it increases its military presence in the Middle East and sign the Abraham Accords.

“Whitehall must leverage its joint military exercises with the US and Gulf allies and bolster its economic and diplomatic clout in the region,” he said. 

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“By increasing its military expenditure and signing onto the Abraham Accords, Britain could position itself to work more closely alongside the US to foster greater military integration between GCC states and Israel.  

“Britain could contribute towards deepening and entrenching the Accords, which, in turn, would contribute to signatories maintaining their pro-Western strategic orientation rather than turning towards China.”

Smoke billows during an Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 22, 2024

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Smoke billows during an Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 22, 2024
Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 12, 2024

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Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 12, 2024