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Old 09-14-2018, 10:22 AM
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Arrow Chinese deal to take over key israeli port may threaten us naval operations, critics

BY; DAVID BRENNAN ON 9/14/18 AT 11:26 AM - Newsweek

Photo Link:
The USS Iwo Jima is seen anchored in the northern Israeli port of Haifa on March 15, 2018. Critics of the Haifa port deal fear it could deter closer U.S.-Israeli military cooperation.

A Chinese company is planning to take over management of Israel’s Haifa port, as Beijing continues to advance its global influence in the shape of economic projects and large commercial deals.

The Haifa port sits close to the hub of the Israeli navy—its base near Haifa that is reportedly home to the country’s nuclear-capable submarine force. Israeli critics are now calling for an investigation into potential security issues posed by the Chinese presence along the country’s Mediterranean coast.

At the Workshop on Future of Maritime Security in Eastern Mediterranean conference at the end of August, Shaul Chorev—Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservist brigadier general and former navy chief of staff and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission—said a new mechanism is required to keep an eye on Chinese investments in Israel.

According to a summary document of the meeting—sent to Newsweek by Chorev—one of the key concerns among those present was that the Chinese Haifa contract could “limit or preclude” regional cooperation with the U.S. Navy, which has become ever more valuable due to political developments in the Middle East.

The Shanghai International Port Group's management of the newly-expanded Haifa port is due to be inaugurated in 2021 and the contract will run for 25 years. Another Chinese firm has also won a contract to build a new port in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.

But as the August conference noted, this project also has political and military dimensions. Chorev and colleagues warned that Israel is currently lacking a process to analyze economic investments for their national security implications, and must rapidly develop one.

China has been hard at work creating a network of infrastructure to further its economic reach around the globe. The mammoth Belt and Road Initiative is hoping to establish a 21st century Silk Road by 2049, and Beijing will invest as much as $8 trillion in the initiative.

Photo link of Chinese taking over operations at the port:
Cranes are pictured at the port of the northern city of Haifa, Israel, on April 23, 2013. A Chinese firm will operate the port from 2021 to 2046.

The “Belt” refers to land corridors running from China into Russia, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The “Road” will be comprised of sea routes stretching all the way to central Europe, via the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal and Mediterranean.

President Xi Jinping has been vocal in his push for what he called the “Military Civilian Integration Policy,” by which the leader intends to combine “the ideas, decisions and plans of military and civilian integration” in “all fields of national economic development and defense building.”

In this light, the commercial contract for the Haifa port would theoretically give the Chinese military a useable facility in the Mediterranean along one of the world’s most vital trade arteries.

The deal could affect the relationship between the U.S. and the IDF. Retired Admiral Gary Roughead, the former chief of naval operations, told the meeting that he was in favor of increased Israeli-U.S. cooperation more generally. However, he said that a Chinese-run port in Haifa means American ships could not regularly use the Israeli naval base nearby.

According to the summary provided by Chorev, Roughead explained: “The Chinese port operators will be able to monitor closely U.S. ship movements, be aware of maintenance activity and could have access to equipment moving to and from repair sites and interact freely with our crews over protracted periods.”

“Significantly, the information systems and new infrastructure integral to the ports and the likelihood of information and electronic surveillance systems jeopardize U.S. information and cyber security,” he added. “These factors might not preclude brief port visits, but it would preclude homeporting and other protracted projects and initiatives.”

The U.S. Navy has been gradually pivoting from the European theater and Middle East to the Persian Gulf and Asia, particularly because of the challenge posed by an increasingly powerful China. Europe is no longer the ultimate focus of American foreign policy.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, the U.S. Sixth Fleet is America’s sea arm in European waters. But since the end of the Cold War, the importance and size of the fleet has diminished. Russia’s navy has recently become more active in the region, in part thanks to its involvement in the Syrian Civil War and its use of the naval base at Tartus. The Mediterranean is more open than is has been for decades.

However, talk of a Chinese challenge to American hegemony in Europe may be premature. As a vehemently anti-imperialist power, Communist China has traditionally been against establishing military facilities overseas.

Mathieu Duchâtel, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at the European Council on Foreign Affairs, told Newsweek that as the country has become a bigger world player, it must protect its global interests and investments, whether in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean Africa or further afield.

He stressed that this is not the same as creating bases to challenge U.S. military dominance. Though this may take place in future, “it would be a major break” from Beijing’s established policy, Duchâtel explained.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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