Tehran-Beijing is the New Fact of Life

Maybe Trump was right all along?

There are lots of stories telling about an impending deal between China and Iran, about which U.S. officials Keith Krach and Brian Hook issue a warning: “not so fast.”

To be sure, these two totalitarian countries have frequently indicated their intentions to merge their forces against the American and Israeli democracies, and play a hegemonic role in the Middle East and the South China sea. This goes back several decades, if not centuries, and is one of the Chinese historic goals: establishing a global presence.

No one should be surprised by the start of the mutual agreement:

 “In its opening line, China and Iran describe themselves as 'two ancient Asian cultures, two partners in the sectors of trade, economy, politics, culture and security with a similar outlook and many mutual bilateral and multilateral interests.'

Henceforth, they “will consider one another strategic partners.”

The China-Iran deal stipulates a wide range of cooperation across economic, military and security matters, and gives both regimes access to each other’s strengths.

The implications of the deal are clear. China has opted to ignore U.S. sanctions. Beijing clearly believes the economic and diplomatic price it will pay for doing so will be smaller than the price the U.S. will pay for the diminishment of its position as the ultimate arbiter of global markets.

For Iran, China is a life raft saving it from total economic collapse under the weight of U.S. economic sanctions. 

The Sino-Iranian pact is also a military accord...the agreement commits the sides to intensify their joint military exercises. Since 2014, China and Iran have carried out three joint military exercises, the most recent one, a naval exercise took place in December 2019. Russia also participated.

Following the naval maneuvers, Iran’s naval chief Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi told the Chinese media the exercise showed, “the era of American invasions in the region is over.”

As Caroline Glick points out, the deal may well resolve a long-standing conflict between Israel and the United States. In the early 1980s, I was sent to Israel to ask Prime Minister Shimon Peres to stop trading with the Chinese. Peres promised to cut back, but continued the practice, as did his successors, for nearly 40 years. But the Iran-China deal will put a stop to it. 

First, and perhaps foremost, China knows a lot about nuclear weapons, and has promised the Iranians to help with their atomic program. That changes the calculus for Netanyahu and his people:

Until now, Israel viewed the possibility of removing Chinese firms from major construction projects and other deals as a regrettable price of its alliance with the U.S. rather than an Israeli interest.

The Sino-Iran pact changed the calculus. Cancelling technological and infrastructure deals with China – Iran’s superpower sponsor – is now an Israeli national interest regardless of Washington’s position.

The creation of joint Sino-Iranian bases in the Indian ocean opens the alarming prospect of increased Iranian control over Persian Gulf shipping, threatening American and British influence in one of the world’s key oil delivery routes, as well as increasing the global reach of the rapidly expanding Chinese navy.

Step by step, the new world alignment is taking shape, and there are many unexpected developments, including a strategic alliance between Russia and the United States. Do you remember the early accusations against Trump, alleging that the new American president would turn out to be an instrument of Moscow’s global outreach? Does it surprise you to discover that it’s the other way around? Instead, Moscow may be the crucial ingredient in a new “Cold War” that will see the United States and China facing one another as the two hegemonic powers maneuvering for strategic dominance. It could work out that way.

In any event, the new world order is shaping up, well described by Caroline Glick:

For decades, U.S. warnings notwithstanding, Israel perceived China as a neutral power and a highly attractive market. Unlike the Europeans, the Chinese never tried to use their economic ties with Israel to coerce Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians. The Chinese didn’t work with radical Israel fringe groups to subvert government and military decisions. They just seemed interested in economic ties for their own sake.

Now that China has chosen to stand with Iran, Israel must recognize the implications and act accordingly. 

It seems to me that China has made a strategic error, but the internal conflicts within the country are pretty heated, as are those in Iran. We’ve got a long way to go before the global conflict becomes clear.

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Photo credit: Official website of Ali Khamenei.

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