News
 International
   Global Views
   Asia-Pacific
   America
   Europe
   Middle East & Africa
 National
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Business
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Taekwondo
 Media
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Life
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Housing
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 Job
 English Teaching
 Translation/Writing
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Business
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Entertainment
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Community
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 PenPal/Friendship
 Volunteers
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
  America
CSIS Commentary
China Headaches for Iran Nuclear Deal
Special Contribution
By Jon B. Alterman
Increasing Sino-American tensions are likely to complicate US efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

When US Iran envoy Rob Malley did a quick tour of key capitals prior to an important meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors Sept. 13, 2021 he met the Western European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Paris and traveled on to Moscow to talk with the Russians. China is the signatory that didn’t get a visit. He didn’t go to Beijing, and Beijing didn’t come to him. It’s yet another sign that increasing Sino-American tensions are likely to seriously complicate US efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

The conventional wisdom has long been that China isn’t interested in taking a prominent role in the Iran nuclear negotiations. China has allowed Russia to do the hard negotiating and the threatening, and when the time has come for a vote, China has supported whatever the Russians supported.

There are several reasons to think that this is starting to change. The first is the overall tenor of Sino-American diplomacy. When National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met top Chinese diplomats in Anchorage in March, the tone was bitter and accusatory, and subsequent senior US visits to China have gone poorly. Last July, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had trouble securing meetings with appropriate counterparts, and climate envoy (and former secretary of state) John Kerry traveled to China in September only to be greeted by a low-level official and have his principal meetings over Zoom — just weeks after those same senior officials met in person with the Taliban leadership. China’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy is in clear view: China complains openly about US behavior, it mocks US decline, and it threatens the defiance of China will have consequences. The broad context for Sino-American cooperation is worsening.

The second is increasingly open Chinese violation of US sanctions on Iran. Starting under the Trump administration, and increasing under the Biden administration, China has been importing Iranian oil in open violation of US law. The Biden team saw its non-enforcement of sanctions as a quiet gesture of goodwill to both Iran and China. Iran got desperately needed cash and Iranians’ suffering diminished; meanwhile, China benefited from discounted oil. As long as nuclear negotiations were proceeding, a few barrels of oil here and there could act as a lubricant to the talks. Yet, China’s imports grew from a trickle into a flood in the spring, totaling about one million barrels per day in May. With the future of nuclear negotiations now in doubt, it is unclear whether Iran will simply pocket US goodwill, and equally unclear if China would be willing to shut down imports regardless of how much the United States implored it to do so.

The third is China’s notable absence from collective efforts by the P5+1 to move Iran back into compliance with the JCPOA. Russia has a whole host of disagreements with the Biden administration, and it has a complicated relationship with Iran that includes direct involvement in Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Yet, Russian officials are clearly concerned with the prospect of Iranian proliferation, and they have been outspoken about the need for Iranian restraint. A Russian diplomat, Mikhail Ulyanov, has taken a lead role in the Vienna-based nuclear negotiations with Iran, carrying messages back and forth between Iranian and US officials since Iran refuses to negotiate directly with the United States in the wake of the Trump administration’s unilateral abrogation of the agreement. The US absence gives Russian diplomacy added importance, and while Russia is aligned with neither side, a senior US negotiator told a closed-door session last week that he saw “Russia’s desire to play a positive role,” and described “a very cooperative approach in which they want to work with us to see whether we could get back into the deal.”

China has serious concerns about Iranian proliferation as well, but it is happy to be a free rider on global efforts to constrain Iran. China intones all of the right sentiments about the desire for a negotiated resolution to disputes, but it simultaneously pursues its own agreements with Iran, building on its overwhelming advantage due not only to the relative size of the two countries’ economies, but also Iran’s isolation in the world. China accounts for about a third of Iranian trade, and Iran accounts for less than 1 percent of Chinese trade. The Chinese economy is 30 times the size of Iran’s, and its population is 18 times as large. China is an elephant, and Iran is an ant. While China sees Iranian proliferation as undesirable, it does not feel threatened by Iran. Instead, China sees Iran as a useful instrument to use in its foreign policy, calibrating its distance and closeness to Iran in some measure as a way to draw closer or pull further from the United States and its allies. The key impulse now is to pull further.

For the United States, this comes as difficult news. The views of Iran’s leadership toward nuclear negotiations remain unclear, but there are increasing signs that the Raisi government — and the clerical establishment behind it — is more distrustful toward the United States than ever before and is resolved to hold out against a return to the JCPOA. A China that is increasingly focused on undermining demonstrations of US power and influence becomes an accessory to Iranian resistance, serving dual goals of winning special favor with Iran — which will pay economic benefits to China — and undercutting the US global position.

The Biden administration seems to understand that its reorientation toward the Pacific will have global consequences, as the current tensions with France demonstrate. But up to now, it doesn’t seem to have much of a strategy for pursuing common diplomatic interests with China while compartmentalizing bilateral tensions. Iran represents an interesting example of how the United States has managed just such a task with Russia. If the United States could manage a similar trick with China over Iran issues, that could spread to other issues such as climate. If not, it could prove enormously difficult for the United States to win a return to the JCPOA, let alone the “longer and stronger” agreement that the administration has set as its goal.

The above writer, Jon B. Alterman, is a senior vice president, holds the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and is director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.

Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).



Related Articles
    The Case for US-Japan-ROK Cooperation on ...
    China's Commitment to Stop Overseas Financing ...
    The Quad's Strategic Infrastructure Play
    China, Again and Again and Again
    Engaging China on Climate before COP26
    When Will the United States Have a Special ...
    Is Latin America Important to China's Foreign ...
    Chinese National Oil Companies Face the Energy ...
    Four Years On: An Update on Rohingya Crisis
    11th Annual South China Sea Conference: ...
    A Glimpse of Chinese Ballistic Missile ...
    US Defense Chief Austin Accomplishes Two ...
    China’s New National Carbon Trading Market: ...
    Progress Report on China’s Type 003 Carrier
    Geopolitical Implications of Scientific ...
    China’s Third Aircraft Carrier Takes Shape
    Strategic Competition and Foreign Perceptions ...
    Bonny Lin, Ex-RAND Scientist, to Join CSIS
    Beyond Polysilicon: The Ties between China’s ...
    Biden-Moon Summit: Rejuvenating and ...
    S. Korean President Moon Jae-In to Meet with ...
    China’s New Space Station Is a Stepping-Stone ...
    Future Scenarios for Leadership Succession in ...
    How China Affects Global Maritime Connectivity
    What Do Overseas Visits Reveal about China’s ...
    CSIS Commission on the Korean Peninsula: ...
    Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of the ...
    Understanding China’s 2021 Defense Budget
    China’s Opaque Shipyards Should Raise Red ...
    How Developed Is China’s Arms Industry?
    Myanmar’s Military Seizes Power
    A Complex Inheritance: Transitioning to a New ...
    Combatting Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang
    How Covid-19 Affected US-China Military ...
    Previewing the G-20 and APEC Summits
    Another US-Built Facility at Ream Bites the ...
    Vietnam Currency Investigation: Strategy and ...
    CSIS Press Briefing: U.S. Policy toward Taiwan
    Mapping the Future of U.S. China Policy
    Assessing the Direction of South Korea-Japan ...
    Chinese Investment in the Maldives: Appraising ...
    Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged ...
    Shinzo Abe’s Decision to Step Down
    A Frozen Line in the Himalayas
    Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur ...
    Decoupling Kabuki: Japan’s Effort to Reset, ...
    Remote Control: Japan's Evolving Senkakus ...
    Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility
    China Won’t Be Scared into Choosing ...
    What’s on the Horizon for Covid-19
    Next Steps for the Coronavirus Response
    COVID-19 Threatens Global Food Security
    Geopolitics and the Novel Coronavirus
    Hope for the Climate
    The Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
    What's Inside the US-China Phase One Deal?
    When Iran Attacks
    Ports and Partnerships: Delhi Invests in ...
    Seeking Clues in Case of the Yuemaobinyu 42212
    Signaling Sovereignty: Chinese Patrols at ...
    Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum ...
    Japan and Korea: Rising Above the Fray
    Only US Can Pull Japan, Korea Back from Brink
    China Risks Flare-Up over Malaysian, ...
    Fear Won’t Stop China’s Digital Silk Road
    Japan, N. Korea: Summit, Missiles, Abductions
    “Chinese, Russian Influence in the Middle ...
    Tracking China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier
    CSIS Scholars Discuss Trump-Abe Summit
    Still Under Pressure: Manila Vs. the Militia
    Is North Korea Preparing for a Military Parade?
    Slow and Steady: Vietnam's Spratly Upgrades
    Sanctions against North Korea: An Unintended ...
    More Is Possible Now to Address North Korea’s ...
    North Korea Reportedly Renews Commitment to ...
    Settling Kurdish Self-Determination in ...
    The Trump Administration’s Trade Objectives ...
    How Is China Securing Its LNG Needs?
    Responding to the Xinjiang Surveillance State ...
    Rethinking U.S. Strategy in the Pacific Islands
    Will the Election Results Turn the Tide on ...
    China, US Choose Between 4 “Cs” Conflict, ...
    Shinzo Abe Rolls On
    Necessary Counterterrorism Conversations
    Trade and Wages
    North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Facilities ...
    Negotiating the Right Agreement: Looking ...
    The Korean Civil-Military Balance
    Will Trump-Kim Summit Be Cancelled?
    The Chinese Are Coming! The Chinese Are Coming!
    How Much Have the Chinese Actually Taken?
    The Other Side of N. Korean Threat: Looking ...
    The Other Side of the North Korean, Iranian, ...
    CSIS & Syracuse's Maxwell School Offer ...
    Dr. Sue Mi Terry Joins CSIS as Senior Fellow ...
    EU to Social Media: Regulate or Be Regulated
    Japan’s Lower House Election: Abe Prevails ...
    China and Technology: Tortoise and Hare Again
    "Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia"


 

back

 

 

 

The Seoul Times Shinheungro 25-gil 2-6 Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188 Email:seoultimes@gmail.com
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange