As the global power dynamics continue to shift, the Saudi government has approved Saudi Arabia's partial membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - a Chinese-led economic, political, and security bloc. The organization, which was formed in 2001, already has full members including, China, India, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Riyadh will be joining with an initial status of a "dialogue partner."
Other dialogue partners include Egypt and Qatar, two countries that have for years been within the U.S. sphere of influence. Iran is also expected to become a full member by the end of the year. As part of the security component of the group, SCO members will be conducting a joint "counter-terrorism exercise" in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia in August.
Atlantic Council fellow Jonathan Fulton said of the SCO, "By engaging with these U.S. rivals, it really does seem like this multipolarity is in full-bore here now."
Riyadh's decision to join the bloc comes 3 months after Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited the kingdom and days after state-owned Saudi Aramco announced that it will be building a $10 billion refinery and China and will acquire a 10 percent stake in a leading Chinese refinery.
China also recently brokered a rapprochement between longtime rivals in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. The two countries have agreed to fully restore previously severed diplomatic relations and to reopen embassies. Riyadh credited China for serving as a "bridge" that made the agreement possible and has also led to a Saudi king inviting an Iranian president to the kingdom for the first time in 25 years. Xi also noted that the dialogue between the two countries will "play a major role in strengthening regional unity and cooperation."
Iran is not the only country the Saudi government is repairing ties with Riyadh is on the verge of restoring diplomatic relations with the Syrian government, which had been targeted for regime change by the U.S. with heavy Saudi support. U.S. soldiers still remain stationed in parts of Syria.
Beijing's budding relationships with many of these countries signal a shift in global power away from the U.S. and heavily in China's favor. It is setting the stage for the next phase of de-dollarization, which is a burgeoning trend that could cause the collapse of a primary cornerstone of America's power in the world.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials have warned Washington's Middle Eastern allies that some forms of cooperation the countries are forming with China could alter their standing with the U.S. However, in another blow to the United States' global influence, few, if any, Middle Eastern leaders seem to be listening.
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