A US-brokered peace pact between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and pledges to withdraw nearly all remaining US forces from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are in line with President Donald Trump’s vow to extract the US from what he has termed “endless wars.”
But that doesn’t mean Washington is abandoning its commitment to the Indo-Pacific, the center stage of an emerging new Cold War pitting the US versus China. Indeed, the US is dispatching assets and bolstering its position at a secretive base on Diego Garcia, a sub-equatorial atoll in the Indian Ocean from where it monitors China and its strategically important shipping lanes.
But as Washington shifts strategic focus, its position at Diego Garcia is under legal threat, one that comes as the US and its allies press back against China’s sweeping claims to the South China China and other areas citing international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The UN and other international bodies are now urging Britain, Diego Garcia’s colonial ruler, to leave the area and cede sovereignty to nearby Mauritius, seen by many as the rightful owner of the atoll and its surrounding islands and islets. The rising controversy, analysts say, has placed the US on the horns of a crucial strategic dilemma.