Unfortunately, Iran’s partnership with China is just part of a broader strategy undertaken by the Islamist state to keep its contested nuclear weapons program running through a policy of strengthening economic ties with Asian nations and territories, most notably China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Over the past several years, Iran has increased its non-oil exports to Asia by almost 20 percent, a figure which now represents 83 percent of its total sales. By contrast, Iran’s exports to Europe have fallen by almost 25 percent, which now represents 13 percent of its overall export total.
Over the same period, Iranian imports from Asia have reached 61 percent of its total sales. Moreover, the Iranians have dramatically increased its exports to Asian countries and territories in an effort to reduce the foreign reserves it holds in Western banks.
Unfortunately, Iran doesn’t necessarily require a new Asian economic policy to help it skirt the impact of UN-imposed economic sanctions. Even though a recent UN report acknowledged that economic sanctions “have made it harder, costlier and riskier for Iran to acquire items needed for its banned nuclear and missile activities,” it also concluded that Iran continues to circumvent those economic sanctions by using front companies and other concealment methods.
To that end, both the United Nations and the European Union have identified nearly 200 such front companies utilized by the Iranians to procure material for its nuclear weapons program. The result of these efforts was highlighted in a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment released in March 2011 which concluded international economic sanctions were not stopping Iran’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons
So, with its progress toward completion of a nuclear weapons program going unhindered, it came as somewhat of surprise when Iran recently urged the P5+1 nations (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) to resume nuclear talks. Even though Iran had pulled out of nuclear talks over its refusal to discuss international demands that it freeze its uranium enrichment program, the Iranians have now had an apparent change of heart.
In a letter to the European Union, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said the next round of dialogue should be based on “respect for Iran’s rights and avoidance of pressure.” For its part, both the EU and White House promptly rejected the overture saying it would only restart the nuclear talks if the Iranians were interested in serious negotiations.
Apparently, and unsurprisingly, the Chinese believed Iran’s offer to be quite serious. As China’s ambassador to the UN Li Baodong said, “We have always believed in and supported the strategy of interaction and negotiation with Iran. We are willing for talks with Iran and I think we can come to a suitable solution.”
Unfortunately, as events have clearly demonstrated, both Iran and China have already determined what such an appropriate result should look like.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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