Intrinsic tensions among China, Russia and Iran

Israel's foreign policy regarding the Iranian nuclear program should consider the tension between Chinese and Russian interest in Iran's economic stability and their concern about Iran becoming a regional and international power.

Israel's foreign policy regarding the Iranian nuclear program should consider the tension between Chinese and Russian interest in Iran's economic stability and their concern about Iran becoming a regional and international power.

UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (03/24/07) intensifies the sanctions against Iran. The sanctions are meant to convince Iran to meet the demand to halt enrichment of uranium, as well as nuclear research and development.

On the one hand, there is nothing new in the sanctions: they do not constitute a substantial threat to Iran's economic stability and their ability to influence the Iranian nuclear project is limited. On the other hand, the sanctions could harm Iran's international status and its regional influence.

The Reut Institute contends that the new sanctions reflect Russia and China's balance of interests vis-à-vis Iran. An intrinsic tension exists between Chinese and Russian interest in supporting Iran's economic stability and their intention to prevent the strengthening of Iran’s regional and international status.

This tension is expressed in three aspects:

  • Iran's regional statusChina and Russia are interested in strengthening Iran's status as an actor which undermines the US hold over the Middle East and Central Asia. However, they do not want to allow Iran to compete with them for influence in those areas.

  • Iran's economic situation China and Russia are economically dependent on Iran since Iran purchases from them weapons and manufactured goods and sells oil to China. Iran's relative economic stability is important for sustaining these trade relations. However, China and Russia are not interested in Iran developing manufacturing capabilities that would release Iran from its dependency on them.
  • Iran's nuclearization Iran's demand for arms as well as nuclear knowledge strengthens the economies of Russia and China. Even so, Russia and China are concerned about the strengthening of Iran's military power and the possibility that Iran will develop nuclear military capabilities independently.

Israel's policy towards Russia and China should consider the entirety of their interests and their alliances with other states. Iran’s weakness is derived from Chinese and Russian wariness of Iran's growing regional power. In addition, alternative Chinese and Russian trade relations that meet their needs for oil and arms export could reduce their dependency on Iran and increase international pressure on Iran.

Sources:

Pazit Ravina, Makor Rishon, 3/28/07, full text. (in Hebrew)

Ronen Bodoni, Ynet, 3/25/07, full text. (in Hebrew)

Tom Shanker, NY Times, 3/24/07, full text.

UN Security Council Press Release, 3/24/07.