Although the details of the agreement have not been made public, it is expected to include significant Chinese investment in Iran’s infrastructure, manufacturing, commercial, and oil and gas industries.
The 25-year partnership agreement between signed between the regionally dominant Iran, sanctioned by the US, and the globally strong, People’s Republic of China, the eastern power pressured by the US, inserts a new geopolitical pincer in the Middle East for the US and its allies. Former US President Donald Trump bears the brunt of the blame for this growth, which is now in the hands of Vice President Joe Biden.
The agreement is considered to be the product of growing diplomatic, business, and military relations between Beijing and Tehran since the establishment of the Islamic regime in Iran 41 years ago. Although the details of the agreement have not been made public, it is expected to include significant Chinese investment in Iran’s infrastructure, manufacturing, commercial, and oil and gas industries. It may also enhance military and intelligence cooperation and significantly connect Iran to China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a global power.
Following the completion of the historic Iran nuclear deal known as JCPOA, trade between China and Iran totaled €31 billion in 2016. It fell after Trump government in Washington withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 and placed tough sanctions on Iran. Despite this, the trade rate is expected to hit new highs. The shared interest of the two sides in countering the US and its allies is at the heart of this remarkable rise in ties.
Considering the strong links of the two countries with Russia and the trio’s hostile association with the US, broader cooperation between China and Iran has the potential to dramatically overhaul the regional geopolitics. China has been cautious of collaboration with Iran in the past decade due to its potential harm to its profitable ties with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional chief rival.
China imported 17 percent of its oil needs from Saudi Arabia alone in 2019, as well as 10% from Iraq, while only 3% of its oil need was secured by US-sanctioned Iran. China still has a strong military. China also has a strong security and political alliance with Israel, Iran’s biggest regional foe.
However, Persian Gulf states, Israel, and the United States are expected to be highly concerned by Beijing’s completion of the agreement with Tehran. Tehran’s expanding presence across the region including in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as well as its support for the Palestine against Israel has always been of paramount concern for Western and Arb countries.
Washington is still worried about Iranian influence in Afghanistan, where the US and its allies claim to have been battling the Taliban-led insurrection since the turn of the century with no results. The US hopes to detach itself from Afghanistan swamp as soon as possible.
When paired with Iran’s tight relations with Russia, the China–Iran agreement has the ability to form a powerful axis that can only strengthen Tehran’s regional status and bargaining power in any future talks with the US fresh administration over the JCPOA. Biden has advocated for the United States to rejoin the JCPOA, but only if Iran restores any of the agreements commitments it revoked in response for Trump’s withdrawal. Iranian government, on the other hand, has opposed this stipulation, insisting the Washington must take the first step.
Despite Ankara and Tehran’s disagreements over Syria, the rising partnerships forming in a politically and economically important area of the world represent a threat to the administration in US than could have been expected.
Biden administration has been put on the precipice of a decision making process in which the president has no much option. The new alliance will change to the path of developments in the Middle East, and thus, the entire world.