How China Is Aiding Iran’s Illegal Oil Trade

Aug. 31 2021

In 2018, the Trump administration imposed a battery of sanctions on the Islamic Republic that, if successfully enforced, make it impossible for it to export petroleum—the country’s main source of revenue. Tehran has responded by creating what Eyal Pinko dubs a “shadow fleet” of tankers to bring its fossil fuels to nations without scruples about evading sanctions:

The Iranian tanker fleet includes about 143 tankers, capable of carrying more than 102 million barrels of crude oil or fuel and 11.8 million barrels of liquefied natural gas daily, with a total value of over $7.7 billion per day. With [this] fleet, Iran began to transport oil secretly to China, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Lebanon, and Venezuela.

Iran and China signed a strategic cooperation agreement in the early 2000s. Based on this agreement, China transferred technological knowledge and production lines of weapons, aircraft, and missiles to Iran. In return, Iran [became] China’s main oil supplier.

Iran’s perspective toward the United States and other Western countries, and its hostility toward them, is an essential tool in the hands of China. . . . For China, Iran is a frontier state against the U.S. in the Persian Gulf. It draws U.S. attention away from the South China Sea, where China is expanding its naval power and taking over maritime territories belonging to the region’s countries.

China is also assisting Iran in selling pirated oil and using the Iranian tanker fleet—the new shadow fleet—for oil-bypassing sanctions. . . . China is even helping Iran operate its shadow fleet so that the tankers will not be detected.

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More about: China, Iran sanctions, Middle East, Oil

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship