China, sensing America’s internal political difficulties amidst social justice protests and a poor COVID-19 response, is taking off the gloves: Beijing is said to be in the final stages of approving a $400 billion economic and security deal with Tehran. In addition to massive infrastructure investments, the agreement envisions closer cooperation on defense and intelligence sharing, and is rumored to include discounts for Iranian oil. If finalized, the PRC would gain massive influence in this geopolitically critical region, and simultaneously throw a lifeline to the embattled Mullah Regime.
The United States is likely to push back against this partnership, which threatens US security and energy interests in the Middle East and Eurasia. It’s little secret that Washington’s foreign policy interest constantly clash with those of Tehran and Beijing.
In the 20th century the main political rival of the US was the Soviet Union, whose collapse in 1991 ushered in the unipolar world of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In the 21st century that there is no question of America’s new ‘near’ peer competitor: the People’s Republic of China, a country with a much bigger economic base than the USSR ever had. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the flagship of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s global ambitions, is a powerful policy tool that puts US foreign policy influence to the test.
When it comes to geopolitical strategy there’s a saying among foreign policy experts: Russia play chess, China plays Go, and the United States plays football. Iran – with its strong anti-American sentiment, large military, and vast hydrocarbon reserves – is an important piece of China’s global Go board.