It’s been almost A hundred years since the relationship between Iran, China, and Russia has commenced. In the early 20th century, the Treaty of Amity was signed between Iranians and Chinese During the reign of Ahmad Shah the last ruler of the Qajar Dynasty, which was a fruitless act due to internal problems in Iran. It was in 1972, decades after, when the Empress Farah-led delegation, along with PM Amir-Abbas Hoveyda visited China and discussed bilateral affairs, including security in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean with Zhou Enlai.
Unlike The Chinese, the relationship between Iran and Russia has always been contradictory! The one-sided frenemy between the two dates back to the Safavid era,1521 AD. It was on 26 February 1921 when representatives of the Qajar Dynasty and the Soviet Union had signed The Russo-Persian Treaty of Amity in Moscow. But Ironically, Russia violated the treaty during World War II, leading to the invasion of Iran by the Anglo-Soviet coalition. Iranians seem to never learn their lessons since this wasn’t the only time Russia had violated its commitment and occupied Iranian soil!
Russia has precedently shown its passion as a player in and around the Persian Gulf as it wants to step into a role as part of its expanding influence in the region to balance against Washington. The Iran-Russia relationship has been shaped in a friendship/enmity form that Russia’s enmity against Iran has been ever given.
Obviously, Russia and China have never counted Iran as an equal partner, neither economically nor commercially, which means Iran is just another ace up their sleeves. Russia and China’s trade balance level with Europe or the United States compared to Iran is the proof. The Iranian foreign trade balance has crashed with its partners since 2020. Moscow does not want to lose its European gas market as Russia’s biggest trading partner and by far the largest investor. Russia’s southern neighbor Iran is a potential gas exporter which holds the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world.
Before the COVID19 hit the world, China was the main partner for the EU in 2020 due to the increase of imports (+5.6%) and exports (+2.2%) as the EU’s statistical office reports. Rather, Beijing was the only major world economy to see growth in the same year, tending to European cars and luxury goods.
Russia, China, and Iran are each seeking relations from their own perspective. Iran’s decision to enter into the expanding China-Russia bloc, however, is a show of unity rather than a real triangle club.
As Iran is no longer a key player in the international corridors, China will lay Trans Caspian East-West Middle Corridor via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. China’s macro-foreign policy has a 20-year strategic foundation in which Iran has no place. For the short term, of course, China —as well as Russia— will tactically use Tehran as its leverage to advance its ambitions. China’s gorges on cheap Iranian oil play on Iran’s strategic situation and Tehran’s regional ambitions to balance against the EU and the United States.
Neither the Tehran-Beijing 25-year agreement nor the Iran-Russia 20-year agreement are genuine treaties that Ayatollahs can count on! The agreements are so traitorous that they refuse to publicize the details. Indubitably, Iran has the utmost support of Council veto-powers, Russia and China, to fulfill its desires, but just, only for a short time. A none-equal partner would not exist in the long term.
As much as Iran stamped its media with such megaphone propaganda about the so-called agreements, Russia and China did not!
Iran’s pretending to deepen ties with Russia and China is a bluff. Tehran knows how China participates, seizes, and swallows! The same is true of Russia. The Butcher of Tehran’s visit to Russia was also more to appease the Kremlin as Putin gave his counterpart, a cold shoulder. Russia-Israel relations and the Sino-Iranian 25-year agreement have been the main reason.
But what are each triangle Of lawbreakers looking for? China is only seeking to establish a naval base in Iran. And where better than Chabahar port, the only oceanic port located on the Gulf of Oman, in the cape of the Persian Gulf?! At the time of sanctions, cheap Iranian oil is not as important as having a military base in the region, as Beijing seeks military influence in the region. Hence, the Triple Axis has held two naval exercises in the Oman Sea (northern of Indian Ocean) since 2019. China also looks for raw materials for its production, consumer markets, and faster-cheaper transport channels. China seeks to expand and strengthen its economic, political and military influence and geopolitical position in the world.
Since Washington and Beijing are in a global fight over military bases, the ‘Insatiable Yellow Dragon’ has sought to establish itself in South and Central America, Africa, and the Middle East. Iran’s Chabahar Port is the only regional possible and achievable option for China.
Using The ‘Belt and Road Initiative, China also lends money to poorer countries or developing countries to present itself as the Mr. Goody two-shoes, leaving them unable to hold their end of the bargain. It was meant to achieve China’s strategic goals and buy them influence.
But Russia’s biggest concern right now is NATO getting closer to its borders and it certainly plays its ace card, which is ‘Iran’ over the Ukrainian issue, as China does. The manipulative triangulation strategy of Russia during Iran nuclear talks, which is taking place in Vienna, Austria. The reluctance of the European Union and the Biden implicit message it conveys.
While the two superpower players, the U.S.A and Russia, are playing at a game, the middle eastern countries, or let’s say, the whole world are children playing at their game while screaming that the rules aren’t fair, which now China is also joining the big two!
By wasting time goofing off, Iran is either seeking to get close to a nuclear weapon or more trying to make concessions in nuclear talks after other sides warned time is running out. Iran knows it should finally give in. But, Tehran will do its best to get a gilt-edged result. Iran will put last-ditch efforts into finishing the ongoing talks in a more prosperous condition.
Neither side should be intimidated by Iran’s mischief. Iran shows it is getting closer to the East, extorting other sides. However, the Russia-China link with Iran is not an equal relationship based on good faith and good cooperation, but the West must worry about Russia-China influence in the region and Iran’s ongoing destructive activities. What happens in Tehran-Beijing-Moscow current relations is that the Iranians and people of the Middle East will pay the price. Their national interests are plundered and their territorial integrity is being attacked.
By Kaveh Taheri and Kate