Removing sanctions against Iran will reinvigorate global trade.
Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
Iran has received confirmation of Russia’s and China’s support for negotiations on the nuclear deal that will restart later this month. The resumption of talks can spur Russia and China to seek areas of common interest with the US to create a rare atmosphere of cooperation. Russia and China welcomed Iran’s decision to return to the nuclear agreement after the US unilaterally withdrew from it on May 8, 2018. The nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), still has validity if the US are willing to return to it, something that not only Russia and China encourage, but also the European Union.
Despite this widespread support of returning to JCPOA, China reemphasized its support for the scheduled November 29 nuclear deal negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also expressed similar views. In a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Lavrov said that all parties, particularly the US, should restore full compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. For his part, Amir-Abdollahian noted that in order to accelerate the upcoming nuclear negotiations, the US and Europe should reject any request outside the framework of the 2015 agreement and take a constructive approach.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN on November 7, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan accused Iran of showing no desire to resume negotiations. On November 8, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh demanded guarantees from the US that it would not again abandon the JCPOA if the upcoming Vienna talks are successful. He also said that Washington should lift all sanctions imposed by the former US administration.
Khatibzadeh said on Twitter that “Jake Sullivan claims Iran has left JCPOA. Is he unaware that it was the US that left? Path for US return is clear: admission of culpability, end to its ‘max failure’ campaign and guarantee that international law won’t be mocked again. JCPOA fundamentally dictates these basic expectations.”
Russia and China clearly define their position against US sanctions because legitimate sanctions can only be imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Both countries have made it clear that the unilateral sanctions the US imposed against Iran and may impose on other countries are unacceptable. Washington is not ready to lift sanctions against Iran and therefore might not be ready to extend the JCPOA.
However, it is more than likely that compliance with the agreement will resume, although reaching this outcome will undoubtedly be difficult. As Iran is suffering from major sanctions, Washington is hoping that Tehran will make concessions because it can leverage the economic situation. Inevitably though, if Iran makes concessions, the US will likely increase its influence over the country and the wider region.
Although there is a competition and confrontation between China and the US, particularly in matters of technology and control over the Pacific region, there are also many areas where they can cooperate. With negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal only weeks away, China has conducted multi-level talks with Iran, Russia and the US. It is likely that Beijing’s diplomatic activity will increase as a result.
US sanctions on Iran deal a huge blow to the Chinese economy as it targets Iran’s oil exports. Partly for this reason, China wants the restoration of the JCPOA so it can develop comprehensive relations with the Islamic Republic and have more energy security. Iran still exports oil through intermediaries, but this is a difficult process.
China wants Iran to overcome difficulties, especially economic ones, so it can develop relations with Iran unhindered. Iran is one of the key players in the region, and China wants it to be a cornerstone component of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
To improve Iran’s image, China attempts to help the country break free from international isolation through various channels. In one example, China suggested that Iran uses its political influence to solve the Afghanistan problem. In a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China plans to hold the third meeting of countries that neighbor Afghanistan. The minister said that Beijing intends to strengthen coordination with all parties to make this meeting more successful. Wang Yi made it clear that he wanted to let Iran, as well as other neighboring countries of Afghanistan, to play a constructive role to establish lasting peace and stability – a difficult task with the Taliban in power.
None-the-less, releasing Iran from Trump-era imposed sanctions will not only benefit China and Russia as a major issue in the region is once again resolved, but it will also facilitate global trade as Iran becomes more integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative, but also economic corridors involving the Arab World, Central Asia, India and Europe.
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