The superpowers’ Art of War in the Middle East

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 14, 2020 - 12:00am

The big guys in geopolitics, US, Russia, and China are again making the Middle East their playing ground. And the bone of contention is oil. Caught in the crossfires are millions of migrant workers, including two million OFWs.

The animosity between the US and Iran has been on for many decades. As of today, they have no diplomatic relations. Iranian citizens are banned from entering the US and all other nationals whose passports record that they have entered Iran will have difficulty trying to visit America. When Trump took initiatives in strengthening informal alliances with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Israel, and other Sunni gulf states, the bigwigs in Iran took it as an act of provocation. Thus, Iran cultivated warmer relations with Russia and China.

In July 2007, both the Democrats and the Republicans approved the Countering America's Adversaries Thorough Sanctions Act, which imposed trade and other sanctions against Iran, Russia, and North Korea. In May 2019, tensions between the two escalated when the US deployed more military assets in the Persian Gulf to deny Iran further advantage in connection with their objectives to disrupt the flow of oil via the Strait of Hormuz. As of today, the US has 13,000 troops based in Kuwait, 12,000 in Afghanistan, 10,000 in Qatar, 7,000 in Bahrain, 5,000 in the UAE, 3,000 in Saudi Arabia, 3,000 in Jordan, 1,700 in Turkey and 1,000 in Syria. This is in all 55,700 combatants.

Last December 27, a US contractor was killed in rocket attacks by Iran. Then, 25 Iraqi fighters were killed in US air strikes against Hezbollah bases. Pro-Iran protesters attacked the US Embassy. Forthwith, Trump announced the US has deployed additional 750 more men to the Gulf. On January 3, upon orders of Trump himself, Iran general Qasem Soleimani was killed by air strike. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Al Khameni vowed revenge. The Pentagon responded by deploying 3,500 more troops to the region. On January 4, Iran's missiles hit the US Embassy and its housing units. On January 7, the Iranian parliament declared all US troops “terrorists.” On January 8, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two US bases.

Meanwhile, Iran found help and support from Russia and China. The Kremlin is expected to jump at this opportunity to have more friends in the region. Since Russia intervened in the Syria conflict in 2015, Putin has been positioning his country to become a major player to balance the US influence over oil-rich nations in the region. China isn’t far behind. Iran foreign minister Mohd Jarad Zarif has visited Beijing four times in 2019, and still went there last December 31, to talk with both China and Russia on accelerating and augmenting the trilateral China-Russia military exercises in the Gulf of Oman and in the northern Indian Ocean.

China is the world's biggest oil exporter. Beijing wants constant and uninterrupted flow of oil into China, otherwise the viability of its economy and the interests of 1.4-billion Chinese people would be in jeopardy. China is therefore very much interested in the Middle East. Proof of this is China's investments in the region. Thus, Iran is being pushed by both Moscow and Beijing to minimize and then eliminate altogether the American presence in the Middle East. The subject of all these ruckus, turmoil, and conflicts, is oil.

The collateral damage is inflicted on two million Filipino migrant workers. For this reason, the Philippines has much to lose should tension escalate. When the elephants collide, the small cats could be trampled and killed.

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