nasr2_Noel Celis - PoolGetty Images_china iran Noel Celis/Pool/Getty Images

China Plays the Iran Card

A recently announced partnership accord between China and Iran will have far-reaching strategic implications in the Middle East and South Asia. As much as Americans would like to withdraw from these regions once and for all, the fact is that the US rivalry with China will be a global affair.

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this month, Iran announced that it is negotiating a 25-year agreement with China encompassing trade, energy, infrastructure, telecommunications, and even military cooperation. For Iran, the prospect of a strategic partnership with China comes at a critical time. The Iranian government has been confronting popular discontent over a sinking domestic economy, which has been battered by American sanctions and, now, COVID-19.

Making matters worse, a recent series of explosions across the country has deepened the sense that the regime is under siege. Damaging at least two sites associated with the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, these incidents appear to be part of a broader strategy by the United States and Israel to cripple Iran’s capabilities.

News of a large deal with China is thus a welcome diversion for the Iranian government, and may even buy it time to maintain the status quo until the November 2020 US presidential election. The outcome of that contest will determine the trajectory of US-Iranian relations and the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while also influencing Iran’s own presidential election in June 2021.

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