The intensifying economic and security partnership between Iran and China is a growing danger that the United States can disrupt with minimal risk.
Economically ravaged Iran will give Communist China deeply discounted oil for 25 years, while Beijing will give Iran access to its party-controlled banking, telecom, and manufacturing sectors. The relationship includes China providing military hardware and training to Iran. The mullahs and the Communists will increase their intelligence-sharing relationship.
The partnership threatens United States interests because it holds the possibility of China building a permanent military presence in the Persian Gulf and potentially the Mediterranean Sea via Syria as Beijing builds a blue-water navy with aircraft carriers powered by American-designed next-generation molten-salt nuclear reactors.
China has been busy building civilian shipping hubs worldwide that are easily convertible to military bases.
China is projecting its military power
Beijing leaped forward under the docile Obama administration. It picked the small but strategic country of Djibouti, which sits on the horn of east Africa on the west shore of the Gulf of Aden, which connects international shipping from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, and thus through Egypt’s Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.
Iran has been sponsoring Houthi rebels to neutralize or destroy the government of Yemen, across the gulf from Djibouti, which, if successful, would give both Tehran and Beijing control of Yemen’s major port of Aden. Iran would thus help China dominate both shores of a major chokepoint of international shipping.
Djibouti was already home to a French Foreign Legion base and to the only US permanent military base on the African continent. It also houses Japan’s only foreign military base, symbolic of the country’s strategic position in world trade.
Beijing moved in to complicate things. The docile Obama administration in 2016 allowed the Chinese regime to convert a civilian logistics hub in Djibouti into the first official People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) military base outside Mainland China. Due to that action or inaction, China now has a permanent military base in Djibouti to reinforce its growing foothold in Africa while it partners with the Iranian instigators of the Houthi rebellion across the Gulf of Aden.
Economic interdependence as political leverage: The case of Israel
China has made effective use of economic interdependence as political leverage on other countries. Testimony in a suit against Bank of China for its role in the large scale laundering of funds used for terrorist attacks by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad shows that that leverage isn’t merely political or diplomatic. Israel surrendered to severe economic pressure from China, showcasing how the Israeli economy has become tangled with Beijing’s investment in Israel’s tech sector—especially in agriculture, medical equipment, and cyber security.
The FBI reports that those sectors are among the Chinese regime’s principal targets against the United States.
This Israeli capitulation was viewed as a betrayal of American citizens victimized by Palestinian suicide bombings in terrorist attacks funded through the Bank of China. The instance shows that China is already engaging in behavior that threatens the sovereignty and security of Israel. Beijing’s actions are expected to intensify in both severity and frequency.
Hiding cash in Iran to avoid sanctions
Chinese commercial entities have used Iran as an area to hide investments and gain a foothold in the country, while helping the Iranian regime avoiding American and international sanctions. Bootstrapped by infusions of up to $400 billion in Communist Chinese investment capital, Iran has found a way to sidestep sanctions and regain its capacity as a regional heavyweight. Iran thus receives cash to fund international terrorism and subversion, and threaten or destabilize Middle Eastern countries from Israel to Saudi Arabia.
Geopolitical realignment ahead if China succeeds
China will expand its Belt and Road Initiative through Iran, and potentially expand infrastructures throughout Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Such a move would mean a massive geopolitical realignment of a region rich in strategic importance to the entire world. Chinese control of this region endangers long term allies in the region and threatens the interests of all nations dependent on resources and trade routes, as well as supply China with an Iranian proxy to extend Beijing’s unrestricted warfare. Iranian access to the Chinese banking systems will potentially enable the flow of cash to terrorists worldwide.
US can reverse this realignment with minimal risk
With minimal risk, the United States can reverse the Communist China-Iran axis. The Trump administration’s strong approaches toward China and Iran have limited the abilities of both regimes to reach their bilateral goals. The effects of the pushback have only begun.
President Trump has squeezed the Iranian regime very hard with economic and trade sanctions, and has persuaded European allies and others to follow suit. He has had the Navy stop Iranian fuel ships bound for China. With the Wuhan Virus pandemic and Trump’s squeeze on the Chinese Communist Party causing financial grief on the regime in Beijing, China’s support for the Iranian mullahs will become more costly.
Normalization between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is a huge step toward greater Arab solidarity with the Jewish state to support mutual interests and self-interests that reinforce one another.
And then, of course, concerted efforts between the US and others are destabilizing the Iranian regime’s 40-year control while unrest increases in China and the world steadily if cautiously pushes back against the one-party state.
These and other efforts, which involve no US military force, can put Ayatollah Khamenei and Xi Jinping on the defensive again.
Meanwhile, the mullahs and Communists watch America’s electoral race to see how long the pushback will continue, or if they will get a reprieve.