The newly established UK-US- Australian Partnership has triggered debates and tensions around the world. The pact established a common vision over the security of the Indo-Pacific between three Anglophone countries that have strong historical ties, and a long history in cooperation over several matters (Corben, Townshend, Patton, 2021). The partnership raises a lot of concerns since it affects multiple actors with high emphasis on the Chinese power. Nonetheless, putting into consideration the Chinese partners in the Indo-Pacific region and in the Middle East (Philip, 2021). Due to the multidimensional nature of the partnership, this paper aims to shed the light on the AUKUS impact on the Middle East.
The partnership impact will be addressed according to the foreign policies of superpowers (China and the US), with the consideration of their partners around the world. Therefore, it will be tackled using the formation of the AUKUS, members, goals ,and threats (Corben et al. ,2021). In addition to the impact of the AUKUS on the Western Unity, the impact of the AUKUS on the Arab region, Australia-Afghanistan long term relations, India-Pakistan relations.
The impact of the AUKUS on the Western Unity requires addressing the current and the future relations of the US with the European partners and NATO (Varma, 2021). In addition to, the Five Eyes alliance especially the current New Zeeland position. While the impact of the AUKUS on the Arab region must include the Iranian, Russian, and Chinese role post the American withdrawal from Afghanistan to form the AUKUS (Reisinezhad, 2021). Nonetheless, the future relations of the Gulf states with China and US especially with the current unstable environment. Lastly, three possible future scenarios will reflect and suggest the most possible solution through which states will resort to it.
The Formation of AUKUS
On the 15th of September 2021, the world has witnessed the formation of a new security pact between three Anglo-Saxon countries. The United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Australia have launched a new trilateral partnership between the three states tackling multiple areas of cooperation. The AUKUS focuses on deepening integration in defense-related science, technology, and industrial bases with particular emphasis on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and new undersea capabilities (Samaan, 2021). The main initiative was to support Australia in obtaining nuclear-powered submarines. The deal has been conducted between the three Anglophone states that are also members of the Five Eyes (Corben et al. ,2021).
The AUKUS pact serves several purposes, but the main goal of the AUKUS is undermining the Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region and in the world. The United States of America wants to secure “free and open” global markets, and make sure that China’s dominance will not threaten the American presence in the region or close markets and strategic partners on the United States of America. In addition, the partnership between UK, US, and Australia resulted in stopping the Chinese initiative of the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) to run through Australia. The cancellation of the BRI deal in Australia is a huge loss for the Chinese strategy to dominate the world markets (Gradner, 2021).
Several critics have argued that AUKUS will threatens the security of the Indo-Pacific region and thus will drive the region into a new cold war. putting into consideration the ASEAN members (Xiangmiao, 2021). “Its inception is likely to turn Asia Pacific into a conflict-prone area from a mere theatre for big powers’ geopolitical contest” (Philip, 2021). There are a couple of debates regarding the technical details and the timeline of the deal (Corben et al. ,2021). In addition, there are other internal concerns in the Australian public opinion that were previously declared prior to the deal. “Recent figures show that over 60 per cent of respondents are against the idea of Australia pursuing nuclear power capability” (Corben et al. ,2021).
The Impact of AUKUS on the Western Unity
The European continent has long been a strong ally to the United States of America. However, the AUKUS pact has resulted in a couple of conflicts that threatens the Western Unity. France was highly offended by the deal between the three states for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was a secret deal that was made between its traditional allies without including it (Shea, 2021). Secondly, it did not consider the commitments of the submarines deal between France and Australia which was cancelled as a result of the AUKUS pact that promised to provide Australia with submarines. The crack was so serious to the extent it provoked Macron to recall the French Ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, an unprecedented move in centuries of diplomatic relations between the three countries (Shea, 2021).
Nonetheless, many have announced that the AUKUS pact is expected to have long-term consequences as it triggered an already existing issues within the NATO members and the EU. (Moreschi ,2021).While for the United States, all of its recent policies and initiatives reflects its priority in diversifying its allies. The American policy originates from the current lack of trust between the US and the European Union due to the significant economic relations between several European countries with China (Taneja, 2010).
The Five Eyes alliance is an intelligence-sharing arrangement between five English-speaking democracies: the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Originally the alliance evolved during the cold war to monitor the Soviet Union. However, it began to suffer several setbacks. (Gardner, 2021). The significant refusal of New Zeeland to take any initiative that could put a pressure on China threatens the Western unity. Also, the current ununified visions among the Five Eyes members indicates future conflicts over the security of the Anglo-Saxon states(Wakefield, 2021). “New Zealand’s Foreign Minister declined to join in this Western condemnation of Beijing, saying “it felt uncomfortable” with expanding the alliance’s role by putting pressure on China in this way” (Gardner, 2021).
The Impact of AUKUS on the Arab Region
America has realized the cost of the war in Afghanistan, especially during time when it needed to gather all of its capabilities to form the AUKUS as one of its tools in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China. Therefore, the United States decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving lots of weapons to the Afghan army later fell to Taliban. Accordingly, a country armed with massive number of weapons, left the region subject to major threats. The threats are not limited to terrorist attacks but included a power vacuum that is being filled with the Iranian, Russian, and Chinese cooperation (Cafiero, 2021).
The power gained by Iran, highly threatens the Gulf States. However, for the United States this could be more profitable. Since the Gulf states will always be in a need of the American weapons due to the unstable nature of the region. Even though the Iranian, Chinese, and Russian presence and influence in the region threatens the American interests, but America will still benefit from the unstable environment of the Middle East (Cafiero, 2021).
On the other hand, the Chinese presence in the Arab region is highly crucial since the Gulf states were traditional partners to the US. However, a one should consider that the Gulf states are under hard choices its either to cooperate with their security guarantor (US) or cooperate with their largest oil and gas exporter (China) (Cafiero, 2021) Most importantly, The Arab states prefers the Chinese partner since the Chinese partnership does not include interference in domestic nor political affairs of the states, which protects the state’s sovereignty (Cafiero, 2021). The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives book had warned the American foreign policy “, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an “antihegemonic” coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances. It would be reminiscent in scale and scope of the challenge once posed by the Sino-Soviet bloc” (Li, 2021).
The United Arab Emirates has decided to fill the strategic gap in the region through a call for new alliances. Accordingly, it seized the opportunity of the current situation, which is the French dissatisfaction from AUKUS. Therefore, UAE has invited France to reach a future partnership (UAE, Paris, London, 2021). Nevertheless, it did the same with the UK, it also used the expo 2020 for enhancing the economic cooperation between the two states. Significantly, the UAE, UK, and France are willing to cooperate against the Iranian expansion in the Arab region especially post the American absence from the region (UAE, Paris, London, 2021). It is in the best interests of the Europeans to cooperate with Arabs due to the significant threats possessed on its energy, economic and physical security (Bianca, 2020). In addition, “the erosion of maritime security in the Gulf and off the coast of Yemen threatens to disrupt vital European trade networks”(Bianca, 2020).
Australia-Afghanistan long term relations, there are several matters that unite Australian and Afghans. In the period following the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, more than 25,000 members of the Australian Defense Force served in Afghanistan (Maley, 2019). In May 2012, the Comprehensive Long-term Partnership between Australia and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was signed. Consequently, that cooperation allowed Afghani officers to study at the Australian Defense College, and for cadets to train at the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College at Duntroon (Maley, 2019)
The Indian Position
India is highly welcoming the formation of AUKUS (Mohan 2021). Regardless of the debates going on regarding India’s position some claim that it is not satisfied and whether AUKUS may substitute the Quad or not (Madan, 2021). The AUKUS supports the same purposes of Quad, with some differences in terms of the member states. Due to the tensions between China and India, India is highly supportive to any coalition that will counter China in the region. “The Quadrilateral (Quad) Security Dialogue Summit via video conference, bringing together the top leaders of Japan, Australia, and India for the first time” (Li, 2021). Naval security ties between Beijing and Islamabad have over the years strengthened by a series of arms procurements.
Three Possible Scenarios
The first scenario, the de-escalation
This scenario suggests that the United States of America and China will most likely de-escalate the arms race and the containment strategy. Since each of them is fully aware with the capabilities of the other, therefore, it will be a massive loss for both of them if they resorted to any solution aside from de-escalation. In addition, small states may tend to support the de-escalation of the arms race, as the world has learned a lot from the Cold War. The experience of the cold war and its impact on the proxies’ proofs that no state will prefer to repeat it again. Also, the American intervention between the French and Australian diplomatic relations reflects that the United States preferred to settle down current issues even after the French announcements over the US and Australia. Also, the call for a formation of a multilateral treaty that oblige both US and China, with their partners to abide with the international norms might be an option. Pakistan has announced the possibility of a multilateral treaty instead of arrangements directed against other nations. “During the weekly media briefing, said that Pakistan, in principle, do not subscribe to bloc politics. Also, Imran Khan we support broader, inclusive multilateral cooperation, based on open and transparent principles” (“Pakistan on AUKUS, 2021). However, this scenario is the least possible one to happen due to the failure of multiple attempts by the US to contain China through a treaty.
The second scenario, the escalation
The escalation scenario is the most possible scenario, since each state (US and China) managed to have kind of proxies in the region. Therefore, there will not be a need for a direct military confrontation between the United States of America and between China. However, escalation in the 21st century most likely to involve escalation in terms of the cyber capabilities. Especially the high government expenditure of China and US over cyber technologies in the recent decades.
Escalation may also take the shape of military power but between their partners, Pakistan against India especially with the already existing conflict between the two states. In addition, the Chinese control in Afghanistan has gained it a huge opportunity in the Middle East, and thus will serve it in other areas. According to an article that was published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in 2019, it stated that “A failure in Afghanistan could also trigger new flows of Afghan refugees” (Maley, 2019). Moreover, that will drive Pakistan-based extremist group such as Lashkar-e-Taiba to attempt another major terrorist attack in India. The article also stated that any failure in the western supported transition in Afghanistan will “fuel a narrative similar to the one that appeared following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989” (Maley, 2019). Nonetheless, it also stressed on the threat possessed from radical religion believing that it is a force multiplied than can defeat even a superpower. It will also lead to encouraging radicalism all the way from the Arab Middle East to the Indonesian archipelago (Maley, 2019). Therefore, it will undermine years of efforts directed at countering violent extremism in Australia’s neighborhood. The previously mentioned assumptions that were before the failure of Afghanistan proofs that the Chinese control in Afghanistan due to the withdrawal of the US, grants China huge opportunities to threaten the United States and its partners either in the Indo-Pacific or in the Middle East. Nonetheless, it asserts the possibility of the escalation scenario. The main purpose of the AUKUS partnership was to contain the Chinese expansion, but at the same time China could form alliances against the US in the same region which will result in severe consequences for their partners driving the region into a new cold war as well as affecting other regions due to the domino effect. Also, the American and European relation may worsen in the near future as indicated by several analysists, due to their relationship with China coupled with the American current lack of trust to their traditional allies. Therefore, states are moving towards a shift in their traditional alliances and the upcoming period will most likely witness the formation of new alliances to protects their interests from major threats. The most significant indicator about the future cooperation, is the UAE invitation for the UK and France to form a new strategic partnership that fills the gap in the Arab region.
The third scenario, the status quo
This scenario suggests that states will most likely remain the current relations as they are with no change in the situation or the state. However, with a bit of Tug and pull relation between the US and China that possess no harm to any of them. This could be just a reminder of the ability to harm, but because both of them are fully aware of the severe consequences that will drain not only both states’ economies but also the rest of the world, therefore, they may prefer this status. Though, a lot of factors in the international arena forces states to act. Therefore, it might be hard to remain in the current status in a fast-changing and challenging world that requires immediate response from states.
To conclude, the partnership between UK-US-Australian has reflected several aspects in terms of the change in several states’ foreign policies with a huge emphasis on the importance of diversifying alliances. The American goal in containing China’s expansion in the Indo-Pacific has impacted the Western Unity. Nonetheless, the partnership had an impact also on the Middle East especially with China, Russia, and Iran presence in Afghanistan particularly after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan to gather all of its capabilities to the new pact.
Accordingly, the previously mentioned aspects have threatened the traditional partners of the US in the region as the Gulf states. Moreover, the instability of the Middle East more specifically the situation in Afghanistan grants China several opportunities with its partners in the Asia-pacific as Pakistan to cooperate against the other strong pacific ally to US which is India.
Through tackling the long-term relations of Australia and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, with the consideration of China and the US as the main driving forces of the relation between the states, it is most likely a situation of new cold war. Nonetheless, the huge shift in the traditional alliances has paved the way for the UAE as a major power in the GCC and the Arab region to invite UK and France for strategic cooperation. All evidence proof that the world will witness the formation of several new alliances. Since all the factors reflects the unwillingness of neither de-escalation nor the remaining of the current situation. Accordingly, the most possible scenario will be the escalation scenario.