Earlier this month, Iran announced plans to sign a 25-year agreement with China on trade, energy, infrastructure, telecommunications, and military cooperation. The timing of Iran’s move to such an agreement with China is remarkable. The timing is extremely critical for Iran.
With the domestic economy shrinking, US trade sanctions, and above all, the Covad-19 attack, the Iranian government is going through a difficult time. Keeping the people of the country calm has become a huge challenge for them.
A series of recent bombings in Iran have damaged at least two nuclear and missile installations. The United States and Israel are believed to be behind the incidents, raising questions in the minds of ordinary Iranians about Iran’s ability to defend itself.
US presidential election next November. The outcome of this election will depend on whether US sanctions on Iran continue or whether the Iran deal will last.
In the meantime, Iran has announced that it will enter into an agreement with China.
It is important to remember that historically, Iran has always faced obstacles in reaching an agreement with a major power, and they have never been able to accept that any major power would be economically wary of Iran. That is why there is opposition within Iran to deal with China.
To put “maximum pressure” on Iran, Trump unilaterally removed the United States from the Iran deal in 2016 and imposed major sanctions. Iran’s economy has been collapsing ever since. The government is facing the anger of the people due to the increase in the price of goods inside the country.
By announcing an agreement with China, the Rouhani government wants to send a message to the people that Iran does not want to put all its eggs in the Western basket. The government wants to convince the people that Iran is not isolated from the outside world.
In the international arena, Iran has always maintained a balanced diplomatic relationship. Over the past decade, Iran has leaned towards Russia on defense issues, reached out to China on financial issues, and the Rouhani government has forged ties with Europe on a number of issues. Now, in the Sino-US conflict, Iran is strengthening ties with China to keep the United States under pressure.
Having close ties with China will make it easier for the United States and Europe to negotiate with Iran in the future. The deal would also put pressure on Iran’s rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
On the other hand, Iran also sees the deal as a weapon to put pressure on the United States. However, it is also true that Saudi Arabia and Israel are known enemies of Iran, but China will not be interested in ruining its relations with them.
China, of course, has been interested in Iran, given its geopolitical importance. Iran’s cooperation will play a major role in the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China is already buying oil from Iran at below-market prices. In addition, China has a vision for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan. Iran’s cooperation will also be needed to consolidate the Chinese presence in Afghanistan.
An agreement with Iran would allow China to expand its dominance over Iran’s Chahbahar port, which would be used to corner its rival India. India currently uses this port to transport goods.
In many cases, the deal with Iran will strengthen China. There is no doubt that Iran will be used as a key player in China’s trade war with the United States.