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Red Dragon Rising in the Middle East: China's Growing Ties to Iran

09-01-2020
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China-Iran Alliance

As President Trump works to lessen the dependence on trade with China, Beijing is busy forming new friendships. One strategic partnership may prove especially troublesome for the United States.

During a recent blistering attack against Beijing, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that China is making the world's waterways less safe for international commerce.

"President [Richard] Nixon once said he feared he had created a 'Frankenstein' by opening the world to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], and here we are," Pompeo said.

And nearly 50 years after Nixon's historic meeting with Mao, the Chinese government is making aggressive moves in the Middle East – closely aligning itself with one of America's top enemies. 

"Iran's regime currently is looking at possibly being squeezed by sanctions to the tune of $400 billion. Today Iran has become a front porch for China right in the backyard," explained Sargis Sangari, CEO of the Near East Center of Strategic Engagement.

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That backyard is the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway where much of the world's oil travels. It's also a choke point where western and Japanese oil tankers have come under attack from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. 

Most recently, Iran launched a missile from a helicopter in the strait, striking a mock-up of a US aircraft carrier. The message? Despite US sanctions against the regime, Iran intends to dominate the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf.

And now, China enters the region as a new player. 

Iran has reportedly entered into a 25-year contract whereby the Chinese government would help make up for international sanctions by granting the Islamic Republic $400 billion in exchange for discount oil concessions.

Mohabat TV's Mike Ansari receives daily reports from people inside Iran.

"Chinese money means Iranian political recovery and stability. Ayatollahs will be giving China a permanent foothold in Iran which will enhance the Chinese regional position at the cost of undermining the USA," Ansari insisted.

Part of the deal reportedly grants China's military use of a strategic Iranian island in the Persian Gulf, known as Kish island.

US Secretary of State Pompeo told Fox News that China's entry into Iran will destabilize the Middle East, placing Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates at risk.

"Iran remains the world's largest state sponsor of terror and to have access to weapons systems, commerce and money flowing from the Chinese Communist Party only compounds that risk for that region," said Pompeo.

"The world is resolving into a more bi-polar arrangement where the democracies are more united around the United States. That was evident from the decision the UK made with regard to Huawei and then the other countries--the authoritarian regimes around China," explained Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Brig. General (ret.) Robert Spalding.

Spalding believes it's a pattern of behavior that we'll see a lot of in the future.

And while Washington may find this new alliance worrisome, Ansari says the Iranian people also see it as troubling.

"Iranians inside Iran are taking to social media denouncing the Iranian government's actions. They also don't trust China. They see this as a colonial contract and are looking to the West for help," Ansari said. 

Administration critics say this alliance with China is a consequence of America's big economic squeeze against Iran. And with sanctions already in place against the regime, it appears there's little the United States can do to stop it. 

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