Global Chess: Moscow and Beijing Have Iran's Back

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"Trump's Iran policies have left the country with no choice but to turn to Russia and China."

Foreign Policy - July 2018

As the Trump administration moves to reimpose sanctions on Iran—which had been suspended since the signing of the 2015 nuclear agreement—it aims to “build a global coalition to put pressure on Iran to stop [its nefarious] behavior.” As the U.S. administration sees it, it can achieve a bigger and better deal with Tehran if it exerts maximum pressure on the regime—exemplified by President Donald Trump’s own furious tweeting on July 22.

But Trump will fail. Not only are the United States’ European allies opposed to his decision to leave the nuclear agreement and reintroduce sanctions, but Russia and China also won’t allow Iran to be isolated again. In fact, Beijing and Moscow were Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s first ports of call on his mini-diplomatic tour to ensure the nuclear agreement’s continued implementation after U.S. withdrawal, continuing a long Iranian tradition of looking to the two as a bulwark against Western unreliability.

... In the last several years, Russia has played an important role in the development of Iran’s nuclear and aerospace industries, with its involvement in the construction of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and the sale of airplanes and their parts. And it increasingly supports Iranian regional activities in the Middle East and South Asia, most notably by fighting alongside Iran and the Bashar al-Assad regime to push back the opposition in Syria and by allegedly supporting Taliban groups in Afghanistan to defeat the Islamic State offshoot there.

China’s energy dependence and Belt and Road Initiative have made Iran an increasingly attractive partner. Beijing remains involved in building up Iran’s infrastructure, including electricity, dams, cement plants, steel mills, shipbuilding, motorways, and airports. Defense cooperation, including arms and technology trade and joint military drills, has become an increasingly significant part of Iran’s relationship with both countries, with China in the Persian Gulf and Russia in the Caspian Sea. ...
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