Iranian FM Javad Zarif, right, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for photos after the ceremony of signing documents, in Tehran, March 27, 2021. (AP)

May 5, 2021

With the recent announcement of China’s new strategic relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is now an additional threat to an already dangerous Middle East. This is not good news for those who have hopes for expanding peace and human rights in the region.

According to The New York Times, “China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy under a sweeping economic and security agreement signed on Saturday.”
To be clear, this is not just a business deal. The agreement is titled, “A Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Islamic Republic of Iran and People’s Republic of China.”
To mark the signing of the agreement on March 23, the two countries released a joint statement which said, “The Chinese side supports the Iranian side’s ‘Development Plan’ as well as increasing Iran’s role in regional and international affairs.”
Given the reality of Iran’s role in the Middle East, this deal will only serve to empower Iran to become an even more destructive regional actor through its proxy wars. The agreement states that, “…the two sides regard each other as important strategic partners.”
There is also wider context to this agreement that makes Iran a key part of China’s global strategic ambitions.
According to a report on the China-Iran relationship which appears on the website of the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), “Iran is currently a linchpin in Beijing’s signature ’One Belt, One Road’ initiative, which aims to invest over $1 trillion in infrastructure, connecting over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa.”
Israeli analysts are especially concerned about the China-Iran relationship and its implications for the security of Israel. Iran’s ongoing effort to arm proxy forces in the region with precision guided missiles already poses a strategic threat to Israel. Access to Chinese technology and military cooperation will only serve to enhance the precision guided missile threat.
Brigadier General (Res.) Assaf Orion, former head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF, and current research fellow at the INSS, recently wrote, “In the military-security sphere, there are growing indications of a trend, alarming for Israel, of increased military, technological, intelligence, and security cooperation between China and Iran.”
Orion cites Israeli concerns that this cooperation will extend into the areas of “…intelligence, cyberwarfare, precision navigation systems, weapons research and development, and military training and instruction.”
There is no doubt that China will also extend technical assistance to Iran for its developing drone program. In fact, Iran’s drone program already poses a serious threat to Israel.
Jerusalem Post reporter Seth Frantzman recently wrote, “It appears that it’s not a regular week in Iran unless the country is showing off more drones and warning about how it can strike at Israel or everywhere else in the Middle East.”
However, it’s not only the Israelis who are concerned. The Americans are also concerned about Iran’s growing capabilities.
At a recent press briefing, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of US Central Command said, “… the thing that concerns me the most about Iran, although at the same time they have begun to invest heavily in land attack cruise missiles and in their unmanned aerial program – their drone program – has also made significant achievements.”
As the international community negotiates with Iran over its reentry into the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), it’s important to take into account the new China-Iran strategic relationship. It will become increasingly important for the United States and its allies in the Middle East to show China and Iran that there is a united front against further efforts to destabilize and dominate an already unstable region.
The Jerusalem Post

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.