Iran’s China Deal Changes Game For Biden Team
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Should the Mideast fear the recent signing of a $400 billion, 25-year “strategic partnership” pact between Communist China and the Iranian ayatollahs?
“If you analyze China’s policy, you’ll not see a threat to anyone,” Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told reporters today.
The rhetoric of Russia and China, the international scene’s dynamic duo, increasingly sounds in sync. Both claim to defend the national sovereignty of all countries and respect the rights of all regimes to conduct their national affairs.
But no threat?
Ask Manila about Chinese vessels in the Whitsun Reef. Dispatching a flotilla of what Beijing calls “fishing boats” to the Spratly Islands certainly does threaten the Philippines and signals that China is intent on taking over. Beijing has long considered the entire South China Sea as its private lake, scoffing at competing claims by several governments.
During the Obama era, America advised the Philippines to turn to the International Court of Justice, where territorial disputes between Manila and Beijing could be calmly arbitrated. In the event, the court ruled for the Philippines. China then refused to abide and argued the court lacks jurisdiction.
Or ask Japan about similar territorial disputes with Commnist China over islands Tokyo had long administered. Countries in the South China Sea and the North China Sea are frustrated as Beijing escalates military threats and forcefully seizes territory.
Even more threatening is the looming clash over Taiwan. Beijing has always claimed the democratic island as part of the Communist motherland. Now China’s People’s Liberation Army is upgrading preparations for invasion, and President Xi openly talks of forced “reunification.”
As the notion of “one country two systems” fades in light of events in Hong Kong, Taipei feels threatened.
Yet, Red China pretends to be a benevolent benefactor of the world’s poor and a champion of all regimes to act as they please. Its Belt and Road investment scheme, hailed by some as enlightened colonialism, often allows Beijing to swallow entire countries.
The Iran pact is the latest, most glaring example of how the scheme works. Beijing guarantees to bypass American, or any other, sanctions regimes. It also promises major investments to upgrade ports, roads, cyber networks, and other infrastructure. In return, China gets Iranian oil, a lot of it, even as America still bans its export.
Oil, for now, is ostensibly all Beijing hopes to receive from the deal. Iranian patriots would be wise to carefully assess the ramifications of the deal. China has seized on countries’ inability to pay back loans for, say, a port Beijing has funded, and used the crisis to take over and make the port China’s own.
China and Russia are cultivating regimes we once called “rogue” to forge an alliance of anti-Westerners and weaken America’s global leadership. Iran is much more suitable to the Sino-Russian model of governance than the increasingly Westernized Gulf states. If forced to choose, Beijing would always side with the mullahs.
Yet, on his way to sign his sweeping Iran deal, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi stopped in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. After Tehran, he visited the United Arab Emirates and Oman. All these countries have deepening commercial ties with Beijing.
So, regrettably, does Israel. A Chinese government-owned conglomerate has signed a 25-year contract to upgrade the Haifa port. Israeli hi-tech firms are tied with Chinese counterparts and drones and other Israeli military hardware and technology are exported to China.
America has tried to lean on Jerusalem, pushing back against such deals, and this will test the savvy of the Biden administration. So far it seems to want to prioritize leaning on Israel to get the Jewish state to be more forthcoming in dealings with the Palestinian Arabs. Communist China’s contract in respect of Haifa is of far greater significance.
The Abraham Accord block of Gulf and North African countries could offer a venue. By explicitly rededicating alliances with America and turning away Chinese overtures, these countries, led by Israel, could gain points in Washington, and increase their credibility as critics of the new administration’s Iran policy.
With China in its corner, Iran will escalate threats to the Gulf states. Beijing will also help with arms that threaten Israel. These countries can seize on America’s growing realization that China threatens our global leadership and dissuade Washington from further overtures to Beijing’s newest dependent ally, Tehran.
“The Iranian dossier is one example where we join forces” with Washington, Mr. Polyanskiy, the Kremlin envoy at the United Nations, told reporters Tuesday. That he could say such a thing with a straight face underlines the threat the Middle East is facing.