Tehran & Beijing: An Alliance Resting On A Long History

Al-Bayan, UAE, December 17

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has placed China among the list of countries exempt from the new sanctions against the Iranian terrorist regime, but only for six months, starting in November, so that Beijing can settle its affairs in relation to its former oil deals. Therefore, in the next five months, Beijing will be able to obtain Iranian oil as it has done over the past five decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1971. It remains to be seen what will happen after this grace period expires. Will Beijing stop cooperating with Tehran and sacrifice its trade and energy interests for the sake of protecting U.S. interests? Or will it rebel against Washington and maintain its partnership with Iran? Relations between China and the United States have reached an all-time low under Trump, ever since the latter imposed tariffs on Chinese imports. This casts a heavy doubt over Beijing’s next moves. For obvious reasons, Tehran is courting China and hoping to win its support on this issue. Having China by its side would constitute a major victory for Iran. The mullahs have already begun their effort to get the Chinese on board. There have been campaigns in Iran stressing the longstanding history of trade between the two ancient nations, which go thousands of years back. While this may seem like a desperate attempt to an outsider, the two countries do, in fact, share a historical alliance. During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Chinese firms were the only ones that agreed to provide arms to Tehran, allowing it to maintain its war effort despite American sanctions. In the late 1980s, over 70% of weapons used by Iran originated from China. Beijing rightfully views Tehran as an important regional player, and might not rush to end its ties with the Iranian regime. Therefore, China may defy the U.S. wishes and chose to help Iran avoid the pressure of the sanctions imposed upon it, just like it has done in the past. However, if it is interested in normalizing its ties with Washington, then it will have to accept the American sanctions and reevaluate its trade agreements with Iran. This will be an important milestone that will set the tone for both regional, as well as global, politics. I suggest we wait to see what Beijing decides to do. –Abdallah al-Madani

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