the détente China brokered between Iran and Saudi Arabia is spurring breathless talk in some corners of a regional paradigm shift and even the rise of a Beijing-centric world order.
The Biden administration’s reaction, however, amounts to: Nothing to see here, folks.
U.S. officials have issued brief public statements that downplay the initiative. Asked for details in interviews, they argued that, among other things: It’s a one-off case; it was in China’s economic interest to broker the deal; it doesn’t translate into long-term alliances; and anything that helps calm the region is in America’s interest.
That display of nonchalance also suggests that the administration is eager to stave off concerns that China is eroding America’s global influence at a time when the Biden administration seeks solidarity with partners and allies to counter what Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls Beijing’s threat to the “rules-based international order.”
“Ultimately, this is a good thing,” a U.S. official said of Friday’s announcement that Beijing had brokered a deal for Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations. “We want de-escalation in the Middle East and have been working in that direction. People are not too worked up about the fact that it was the Chinese who were able to pull this off.” Four others made similar comments minimizing the importance of the deal, all of them granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic topic.
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