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A China Card for the Middle East

The list of crises plaguing the Middle East is growing, and none of the usual actors is able or willing to play a constructive role. What the region needs is a new framework for diplomacy – one with the strong backing of a new, non-Western mediator.

PARIS – The list of crises plaguing the Middle East is growing. In Yemen, a civil war rages amid an uncontrollable cholera epidemic. In Jerusalem, religious violence is intensifying, while in parts of Iraq and Syria, sectarian warfare shows no signs of abating. Most ominously, a new level of antagonism between Saudi Arabia and Iran suggests that a direct confrontation between the leading powers of Sunni and Shia Islam is no longer out of the question.

Just when the region needs the steady hand of international leadership most, none of the usual actors is strong enough, or committed enough, to engage effectively. What the region requires is a new framework for diplomacy – one with the strong backing of a new mediator: China.

By exporting terrorism and religiously inspired extremism, the Middle East has become “global” in the most negative sense. But while much attention has been focused on addressing what France’s former finance minister, Michel Sapin, once called the “unhappy” side of globalization – such as unemployment and income inequality – too little has been done to contain the spread of extremist violence or address its causes. Many diplomatic formulas have been tried, but progress remains elusive.

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