China’s Middle East strategy comes at a cost to the US

Critics of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq have always believed the real motivation was taking control of the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves.

Even the architects of Operation Iraqi Freedom were convinced Iraqi oil revenues would quickly fund reconstruction of a US client state that would help redraw the contours of the Middle East in America’s favour. But if oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath — without ever firing a shot.

Today China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, is Iraq’s biggest trading partner. Only Russia sells more oil to Beijing. In the first half of this year, Iraqi oil shipments to China increased almost 30 per cent from a year earlier and accounted for more than a third of Iraq’s total exports. During a visit to Beijing last year, Adel Abdul Mahdi, then Iraq’s prime minister, described Sino-Iraqi relations as poised for a “quantum leap” and his electricity minister wrote “China is our primary option as a strategic partner in the long run.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi oil exports to the US nearly halved in the first half of the year and the Pentagon plans to reduce its remaining troops in Iraq by a third in the coming months.

A similar dynamic is playing…

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