Lifting Sanctions on Iran Will Be a Boon to China

Sept. 9 2022

Washington and Tehran may currently be close to concluding an updated version of the 2015 nuclear deal, although it is unclear if diplomats will be able to resolve the remaining points of contention. If they succeed in doing so, Beijing—which has been growing ever closer to the Islamic Republic in recent years—stands to benefit, as Craig Singelton explains:

Years of punishing international sanctions have left Iran diplomatically and economically isolated, with Tehran seeking greater support from other autocratic regimes. That extends to its partnership with China, which in recent years has become Iran’s top trading partner, a leading destination for energy exports, and a major investor in Iranian industry. While Sino-Iranian military cooperation has ebbed from its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, the two countries engage in periodic military exchanges, joint exercises, and port calls. In January, for example, eleven Iranian vessels joined three Russian ships and two Chinese vessels in a series of joint tactical and artillery drills in the northern Indian Ocean. Likewise, China actively supports Iran’s cruise- and ballistic-missile programs, providing it with technology that has been integrated into systems used against U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq as recently as 2020.

Yet, Singleton notes, China has also set limits on its cooperation with the Islamic Republic, no doubt because of the possible negative effects of U.S. and European sanctions. A nuclear deal would change that:

Free from the threat of sanctions, China will almost certainly ramp up its investments in and trade with Iran, deepening not only its influence there but in the region as well. . . . China will also expand its reach throughout Iran’s steel, gold, and aluminum sectors, having previously invested in other materials-processing projects that enabled Iran to produce inputs for its missile program.

The same applies to infrastructure and transportation-related projects aimed at connecting Iran to China’s regional networks in South and Central Asia. That includes a planned train route between Iran and China’s Xinjiang province, where the United Nations recently determined Beijing is committing “serious human-rights violations,” such as forced labor and sterilizations. Tehran will also lean on Beijing to modernize its telecommunications architecture, including requesting assistance in installing the same artificial-intelligence surveillance technology that China has exported to other autocratic regimes. The result will be even more censorship and political repression for millions of Iranians.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: China, Iran sanctions, U.S. Foreign policy

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism