This article examines the value of the ‘Cold War’ analogy – which has become a commonly used shorthand to describe the Sino–American rivalry – for understanding the effects of the current great power competition in the Middle East. Instead of thinking in terms of the zero-sum logic of the Cold War, we are using the Cold War history in the Middle East as a heuristic device to sharpen our understanding of today's dilemmas. In other words, we are arguing for the benefits of thinking with the analogy rather than adopting it as a kind of conceptual framework for decision-making. Thinking with the analogy can help us identify how and why the Sino–American rivalry is shaping the Middle East's political and security context. After examining the merits of the analogy, we propose three ‘lessons’ from the Cold War history that can help us comprehend the potential effects of the Middle East on the Sino–American rivalry: Middle East actors can intensify the great power rivalry; Middle East conflicts may force reluctant regional actors to choose a side in the great power rivalry; and, lastly, Middle East energy resources flow in line with the producers' interests, not just the great powers' interests.
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