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(Reuters) - China's likely sale of sophisticated missiles to Turkey over the objections of its NATO allies might have angered Washington and other capitals, but it should not have been a surprise.Even as the U.S. has spent billions of dollars and lost hundreds of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beijing has been quietly upping its presence in the Middle East.Militarily, the U.S. - which maintains a permanent aircraft carrier presence near the Gulf as well as dozens of other warships and major bases in Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - is by far the dominant regional power.China has tended to follow Russia's lead on the Middle East, sometimes appearing sidelined on issues such as Syria.Beijing's economic, political and diplomatic clout, however, is growing fast. China's Ministry of Commerce said last month China-Arab nation trade now reaches $222 billion a year, 12 times its 2002 level. That would outstrip U.S.-Mideast trade, valued at $193 billion in 2011.Militarily too, China's footprint is rising. As well as maintaining a three-ship antipiracy task force in the Indian Ocean and occasionally sending ships to the Mediterranean, Beijing has deployed UN peacekeepers to Lebanon.Turkey's choice of a $3.4 billion deal to acquire the Chinese FD-2000 missile defense system rather than rival U.S. or European systems may be a sign of things to come."It is a wake-up call," said Christina Lin, a former U.S. official and now fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies who last year briefed the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs on the issue. "China is looking to get a lot more involved in the Middle East and is being increasingly accepted there."China's interests in the region, she said, ranged from energy and investment to countering the spread of jihadist militancy, a major worry for Beijing in its Muslim provinces.