Iran China Cooperation – Fraught with Contradictions
The recent visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Beijing (Feb 14-16), marked the first of any Iranian President to China in 20 years. The visit has generated much discourse over the further deepening of Iran and China’s bilateral relations. China’s geoeconomic presence in Middle East has increased with close economic ties with several key players in the region, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq including Iran. However, despite the geopolitical significance of this Middle East ‘pivot,’ geoeconomics plays a much more significant role in the dynamics of China’s relations with Iran. Tehran and Beijing’s historic ties and future possibilities are often alluded to by their respective political leaders but questions remain with regard to the actual substance of their ‘partnership.’
Raisi Calls out Beijing for Ties “seriously falling behind”:
Prior to his departure for Beijing, President Ebrahim Raisi expressed dissatisfaction that the two countries’ relationship has not lived up to expectations implying that China had not given enough support to Tehran, economically. Referring to trade and economic ties, he said, “unfortunately, I must say that we have seriously fallen behind in these relations.”
Tehran’s view is that the China-Iran Strategic Partnership Plan (CISPP), as per which Beijing was to invest up to $3.5billion in Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical sectors as well as manufacturing, agriculture and transportation, over a 25 year period in exchange for a steady supply of Iranian oil is far from being realised.
China and Iran fleshed out their ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ by signing the strategic ’25-Year Deal’ and while the deal is an attempt to solidify the partnership, relations between Tehran and Beijing remain complicated. Understanding Iran – China relations entails examining the dynamics that preceded and contributed to this deal. Arriving at the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ took nearly five years. In 2016, during Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran, China and Iran signed seventeen economic and security agreements, and laid the foundation of the ’25-Year Deal.’ Finalised in 2021, during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to Iran, the text of the Strategic Cooperation Agreement, as it is officially known, commits China to invest at least $3.5bn in Iranian traditional and green energy sector, transport, manufacturing, telecommunications, free economic zones, ports, industrial parks, among other things are yet to be made public, reportedly at the request of the Chinese. Iran and China, have however disclosed that the plan contains no “quantitative, specific contracts” and is a “non-binding document.” Expansive in terms of its ambition, the agreement which provides no methods for enforcement, measurable goals, or specific programs, is at best a ‘roadmap’ without any measurable benefits to Iran.
The US reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran and its petroleum exports in 2018 after pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aimed at containing its nuclear program. It has since been ratcheting up sanctions aimed to cut Iran’s oil revenue. Contradictory to its vote in favour of multilateral U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran, Beijing has been repeatedly circumventing additional unilateral sanctions on normative grounds as illegitimate. It has done this to retain its crude oil shipments from Iran, which have surged in recent months.
During Raisi’s recent visit, China’s doublespeak was again exposed. The joint communique railed against “efforts by certain governments to politicise the work” of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iran, but at the China-GCC summit in December 2022 it had not only called on Tehran to fully cooperate with the IAEA, and had stressed dialogue on Iran’s “destabilising regional activities.”
Regional Rivalries Preclude a Balanced approach by Beijing:
China often iterates that it doesn’t pick sides in the Middle East, but given the level of discord in the region, Beijing might have discerned that keeping a balanced approach is easier said than done. It had played a significant role in persuading Iranian leaders of the multiple benefits, primarily economic development by ceding to international concerns over its nuclear program. Riyadh’s opposition to the JCPOA placed it at direct odds with China’s diplomatic efforts to bring the accord to fruition. Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and Biden’s failure to arrive at another negotiated deal mean that Iran continues to expand weapons grade plutonium enrichment programs, which might set off regional uncertainties due to growing tensions be it the Saudi-Iranian or Israeli-Iranian rivalries. Iran’s relations in the Middle East to a large extent are driven by sectarian and other identity markers. This may preclude a balanced approach by Beijing towards Iran and Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
In December 2022 Chinese President Xi Jinping attended two summits with Gulf and Arab leaders in Riyadh. Discontinuing its usual position of non-interference in Middle East security issues, China issued a joint statement that endorsed the main security and foreign policy objectives of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states—including over territorial disputes with Iran. Tehran had taken umbrage at the joint statement that Xi Jingping had signed with leaders of the six-nation GCC. The Iranian foreign ministry expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” at the statement which in effect called into question Iran’s ownership of three islands in the Strait of Hormuz. To appease Iran, China established its first direct shipping line to Iran’s Chabahar Port after one of its container ships docked at the strategically located port. This is more a symbolic gesture, what Chabahar port development needs is investment which remains contingent on clarity regarding the potential imposition on third entities sanctions.
Sluggish Economic Ties – Symptom of Sanctions Receptiveness by China:
As it steadily overcomes its zero Covid market downturn it is unlikely that China will reduce imports of oil despite US threats to sanction entities involved in the trade. China imports the bulk of Iranian oil, through third parties and unofficial channels. But it is taciturn about this oil purchase, reporting only $6.5 billion of imports from Iran in 2021. Data from firms such as TankerTrackers that monitor shipments and vessel movements worldwide, shows that China imported more than $20 billion of Iranian crude and oil byproducts. And Chinese customs data shows no increase year-on-year in Iranian imports indicating a level of receptiveness to the economic leverage of the US dominated international financial mechanisms. The energy trade with Iran lies at the heart of their economic relationship, but overall economic ties between Iran and China have regressed. And aside from continuing to trade oil for goods, China has been circumspect towards Iranian investments.
Reports have emerged that Sinopec, China’s state-owned energy giant, has pulled out of the strategically important 30bn bl Yadavaran oil field in southwest Iran on the border with Iraq. Sinopec was awarded a contract by National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) in 2007 for the first phase of development at Yadavaran, but kept falling short of production targets. The deal, which covered a second phase of development, was terminated quietly in 2019 without any formal explanation and NIOC reclaimed operatorship. China’s pace of involvement in Iran’s other oil fields like for instance West Karoun has also slowed. According to energy expert Simon Watkins, China knows that Iran doesn’t have many international options left, so it is looking to optimise the deals it can get. In OilPrice he explicates how Chinese discount for Iranian crude oil to the international benchmark over the last 12 months has been almost 44 percent -China pays Iran up to 10 percent less for its crude oil than it pays Russia for its crude oil, and the price it pays for Russian crude oil is discounted from the international benchmark by a minimum of 30 percent. Added to this China has been paying Iran in non-convertible Yuan which can only be used for buying Chinese goods.
China has positioned Iran as especially significant in the realisation of its new Silk route initiative. But even as part of the BRI, Iran has only seen a continuation of existing energy related trade investment. Mindful that Dubai and Doha provide a more stable and lucrative environment for its capital, Chinese investment in Iran has not been particularly forthcoming. Without specific projects and investments, Iran-China cooperation lacks solid substance. Despite references to historic linkages, and allusions of a common enemy China remains reticent to make deeper commitments in Iran making it a cooperation fraught with contradictions.
A common vision for China with the Egyptian General Intelligence Service
China relies a lot on the Egyptian role and the role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service as an active and original party in resolving the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and China is following very carefully the meetings that took place in the Palestinian Gaza Strip between Major General Abbas Kamel, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence, with the various factions, parties and rival Palestinian forces. Here, China is trying to enter as an active and acceptable party to all concerned parties in the Middle East region through full cooperation and coordination with the official Egyptian side and the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, as it is the most prominent responsible for the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the mediation and reconciliation efforts between the Palestinian factions and the Fatah and Hamas movements. And this is within the framework of China’s endeavor to solve the problematic of the Palestinian-Israeli issue with the help, understanding and full support of the Egyptian side and its Egyptian General Intelligence Service, considering the Palestinian issue for the Chinese as the core and heart of the thorny problems in the region. Hence, the Chinese depended a lot on the Egyptian role, represented by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its chief, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, to keep the dialogue open through Egyptian mediation efforts with all Palestinian factions continuously. China is also trying to benefit from the Egyptian experience represented in its intelligence apparatus, and the experience of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in dealing with the Palestinian issue and all its parties in the Middle East region to be a new battleground for the Chinese competition with Washington, and in my belief that Israel has been involved in This burning conflict between China and the United States of America, as a Chinese way to harm Washington’s image in the international community, and China’s move to play more effectively in the Palestinian issue with the help of the Egyptian and Jordanian General Intelligence Services, as a new Chinese approach away from the old Chinese approach as a wall guard only regarding the issues of the region, especially the issue Palestinian.
The Chinese statements in confronting the United States of America regarding Israeli violations and provocations against the Palestinians also emerged as a Chinese attempt in the first place to undermine regional and international confidence in the United States of America. Therefore, China tried to put pressure in international forums to obtain greater global influence in confronting Washington within the United Nations, as a kind of challenge to the traditional leadership of the United States, and to display Chinese multilateral power within other international organizations on the other hand. Here, China appears keen to present itself as an alternative peace mediator, taking advantage of the failures or unwillingness of the (Biden administration) to resolve conflicts in the Middle East. Therefore, China is trying to benefit from the experience and the Egyptian intelligence experience, through its Egyptian intelligence apparatus and its chief, “Abbas Kamel”, to enter into the heart of the game of mediation and arbitration in order to reach a binding political settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and then between the disputing Palestinian factions on the other side. In my opinion, China’s entry as a political player in the Middle East region, its proximity to the Egyptian side qualifies it to learn from its experience, to lead mediation efforts regionally to solve the thorny issues between Palestine and Israel, and then between Fatah and Hamas on the other hand.
In recent years, (mediation diplomacy according to the principle of Chinese President “Xi Jinping” known as: the common destiny of mankind) has emerged as one of the main pillars of Chinese foreign policy goals and practices, with Beijing deliberately positioning itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East region. Since Chinese President “Xi Jinping” assumed power in 2013, China has played an active and remarkable role in proposing various plans and visions for peace, supporting the Palestinian right to self-determination, and supporting the two-state solution. Therefore, Beijing hosted (a symposium for advocates of peace between the Palestinian and Israeli sides) in December 2017. The directions of Chinese foreign policy emerged from the political settlement process binding on the Israelis, coinciding with the approach of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, to the United Nations and international forums, and to obtain the support of the Chinese internationally, then Egypt, Jordan and the rest of the Arab countries regionally in the face of Israel’s provocations until the support of Egypt and Jordan for five meetings that included the United States of America, Palestine and Israel in the Jordanian city of Aqaba in February 2023, and then other five-party meetings in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh in March 2023, as part of a broader regional solution led by Egypt and Jordan and their leaders represented by King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein of Jordan and Egyptian President “Abdel Fattah El-Sisi”.
The activity of Chinese mediation diplomacy in the affairs of the region comes amid growing expectations among the regional powers of a gradual decline in the role of the United States in confronting Israel and establishing binding settlements for the Palestinian issue, amid China’s aspirations for this leading role in mediating in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by relying on the experience of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its head, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, in addition to the great Jordanian experience of King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, considering Jordan responsible for the guardianship and international protection of religious sanctities in Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories. Therefore, China needs to benefit from the Egyptian and Jordanian experience in order to obtain great influence and significant mediation experience in managing the Palestinian issue file in a balanced and binding manner between all its parties.
Here, we can monitor the developments of Chinese foreign policy and its repercussions on the Palestinian cause, to follow up on the impact of that policy on the Palestinian cause, to reach a set of results that agree with all the countries of the region, Egypt and Jordan as current sponsors of the Palestinian-Israeli mediation efforts according to a five meetings plan that includes Washington, Palestine and Israel with them, and from The most important of which: Chinese policy is distinguished by adopting positions of support and support for the struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation, with a strong official Chinese condemnation of Israeli policies and practices on the other hand. The most important Chinese criticism of supporting the Palestinians in confronting the Israelis emerged, through:
– The strong Chinese criticism of the policy of aggression and expansion of the Israelis.
– China’s official condemnation of the establishment of Israeli colonies and settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
– As it becomes clear by looking at the official Chinese position, which we find confirming its support for the Palestinian cause, that the region will not enjoy permanent and comprehensive peace except by establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state and restoring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
– The Chinese also demanded the need for concerted efforts by the international community to strengthen Palestinian-Chinese relations so that China would be of assistance to the Palestinians in extracting their legitimate rights in the face of Israel.
– In addition to exploiting the Chinese positions in support of the Palestinian right to put pressure on the various parties in order to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause.
– Recently, the role of the Palestinian community and other Arab communities in China has emerged, to highlight more efforts in order to explain the Palestinian cause and the extent of its justice to Chinese public opinion, and to clarify the extent of the justice of their cause in the face of the continuous Israeli policies of aggression and escalation.
– It is possible to summarize and understand the Chinese position towards the Palestinian issue in general and its positions between the Palestinians and the Israelis, through the comment of the prominent Chinese researcher in Middle East affairs, “Sun Degang”, that:
Beijing’s position is “moral superiority” with Palestine, and “cooperation superiority” with Israel.
Accordingly, Chinese President “Xi Jinping” affirmed that: “The Palestinian issue is the core of Middle East issues, and a comprehensive and just settlement affects regional peace and stability”. This was during the congratulatory message that Chinese President “Xi” sent to the United Nations meeting, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just causes against the Israelis. During the message of Chinese President “Xi Jinping” to the Palestinians before the international community, the full Chinese emphasis on:
– China’s commitment to consolidating the authority of the Palestinian National Authority and promoting unity among all parties in Palestine.
– China calls for Palestine and Israel to resume peace talks as soon as possible in order to push the Middle East peace process to the right track.
– Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assertion that China will provide humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian side, and will support building its capacities, in addition to helping Palestine develop its economy and improve the livelihood of its people.
President “Xi Jinping” was also keen to present China as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and as a responsible major country in the international community, that it will continue to work with the international community to make positive contributions to lasting peace, comprehensive security and common prosperity in the Middle East region.
Here, perhaps one of the most prominent phrases that stopped me regarding China’s support for the Palestinian cause in recent years was the phrase ”Zhang Jun”, the permanent Chinese representative to the United Nations, in his statements during a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Palestine and to reduce the Israeli escalation against the Palestinians by emphasizing the importance of adhering to integrity and justice to solve the Palestinian issue. His candid statement is that:
“What is lacking in resolving the Palestinian issue is not a grand plan, but rather a living conscience to establish justice. The fulfillment of the Security Council’s responsibilities does not depend on loud slogans, but on concrete actions against the Palestinians”
The Chinese-Israeli relations to solve the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict are deep and thorny, and range from rapprochement to coldness or ignoring, and examples of this are numerous and perhaps absent from the minds of many. We find the official Chinese refusal to receive the Israeli Prime Minister “Benjamin Netanyahu” in China in 2013, until the Israeli pressure on the American side to drop a case filed in New York City against China’s “Bank of China”, claiming that there are American accusations that this Chinese bank is laundering Funds to pass Iranian money to Palestinian groups, specifically to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Islamic Jihad Movement, and indeed the case was dropped in favor of China with the help of Israel. On a personal level, what stopped me the most in the whole issue was that Israeli disregard and silence mixed with coldness and silence at other times on China’s continuous vote at the United Nations headquarters in support of Palestinian rights and the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and the permanent Chinese demand to stop building Israeli settlements, while the Israelis do not stand idly by. Thus, they remain silent in the event of this act by other countries, including countries from Europe, Africa and others around the world. This raises a big question mark in me, to wonder about the reasons for this Israeli silence in confronting the Chinese compared to others regarding the same positions and issues related to Palestinian rights, stopping settlement construction, respecting sanctities, border issues, and others.
These developments related to China’s own policy towards the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict coincided with the launch of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, with the change of the Palestinian strategy itself several years ago from armed struggle against Israel, to peaceful political negotiations accompanied by popular resistance through peaceful means with the Israeli side. And this coincided with global changes that took place, with a state of continuous international polarization occurring among all its parties, especially between the Chinese, Russian, and American sides and their allies, and reliance revolved around the exchange of interests and development, as a way to resolve international differences, and the common destiny of mankind according to the principle of the Chinese President, “Xi Jinping” after launching his well-known Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese commitment to support the (Palestinian state-building program) came as part of a Chinese vision supporting the two-state solution, which included building a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967.
Here, the incident of strained relations between Beijing and Tel Aviv evokes me, following the objection of the Israeli embassy in Beijing to some statements issued by the presenter of one of the media programs on the official Chinese government channel “CGTN”, run by the Chinese state on May 18, 2021, which the Israelis considered She is an anti-Semite, during a discussion of US support for Israel in the UN Security Council and the United Nations. The Chinese presenter’s statements came by accusing the powerful pressure groups of the Jews in the United States of America, as being responsible for influencing and shaping Washington’s position regarding the Middle East and Palestine crisis, and that the Jews dominate the financial, media and Internet sectors in Washington. Here, the Israeli embassy in Beijing responded, in a series of tweets via the Twitter social networking site, that Israel was “appalled to see blatant anti-Semitism being expressed in an official Chinese media for the first time”. On the other hand, however, some Israeli pens appeared, trying to mitigate the deteriorating situation between Beijing and Tel Aviv, by emphasizing that these anti-Semitic comments issued by an official Chinese media are more likely to relate to defaming the United States of America in the context of its competition with China than Israel.
Here, it becomes clear that the new Chinese strategy, after Chinese President “Xi Jinping” launched the Belt and Road Initiative to solve the problem of outstanding issues around the world, on top of which is the Arab-Israeli conflict, lies in the economy and development as a top priority of Chinese foreign policy priorities, and this largely governs its position to solve All the conflicts burning around the world, including issues such as Palestine and Israel. China’s peaceful efforts, even with its support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, are inseparable from several broader economic perceptions of China, according to the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, “Liu Ji” during a meeting with him in June 2018, by stressing that China sees both the Palestinians and the Israelis, As important partners for China in the strategy of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Middle East region. This official Chinese statement coincided with the increase in Chinese financial and development allocations directed to the Palestinians, through the training of thousands of Palestinian human cadres inside China, and the operation and opening of hundreds of projects in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by China, with the increase in Chinese financial allocations and grants provided by the Chinese side to the United Nations Relief and works with the Palestinian refugees Agency (UNRWA).
Accordingly, the perceived Chinese reference for resolving the problem of the protracted dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis has become centered on the necessity of continuing bilateral negotiations, negotiated settlements, economic development, institution-building and high-quality economic development, as the only and sound solution to the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, with the faltering of the political process, and the continued Israeli procrastination to reach a real settlement based on the principle of the two-state solution, and the decisions and provisions of international law. The Palestinian side has officially begun to call on the world to intervene, led by China as a pole opposed to Washington in the region and the world, to implement international law in the face of the Israelis. It has also become necessary for us to understand the determinants of the Chinese position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue, which is summarized through a long legacy of Chinese support based on liberal foundations that completely reject colonialism. The issue of Chinese support for the Palestinian national liberation movement is long and well known, and even documented, through the close relations between the leaders of the Palestinian liberation movement, known as the “Fatah Movement” and the Chinese side.
Accordingly, China considers the great role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the great role they play in reducing escalation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, in a way that paves the way for creating an appropriate atmosphere that contributes to the resumption of the comprehensive peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis with the Chinese appreciating the Egyptian and Jordanian mediation efforts through the Egyptian invitation to hold the five-way meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, as a continuation of the meeting that was held on February 26, 2023 in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, with American mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and it was the first of its kind since many years ago, mainly with Egyptian and Jordanian mediation efforts. Here, the concerned Chinese departments analyzed the reasons for the failure of the last Aqaba meeting in February to stop the raging cycle of violence between the Palestinian and Israeli sides on the ground, despite the existence of Israeli and Palestinian pledges to reduce escalation between them, which did not happen in reality. Therefore, the great Chinese interest in the outcomes of the second meeting in the city of Sharm el-Sheikh came to try to push the Palestinian and Israeli sides to calm down through mainly Egyptian-Jordanian mediation efforts, with a great Chinese focus on the efforts and role of Major General “Abbas Kamel”, the head of Egyptian General Intelligence, to learn and benefit from his experience in managing this thorny file for calm and mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
According to my reading of the scene, China has paid great attention, through the Department of West Asia and North Africa in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the Egyptian and Jordanian roles and the role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, to put an end to the raging conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians as a pivotal and influential role after Sharm El-Sheikh hosted the five-way meeting with Washington in the presence of the two Palestinian delegations. And the Israeli side in particular, with the attempt of the Egyptian side, represented by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its chief, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, to reconcile the Palestinian and Israeli sides in a number of thorny and outstanding issues between the two parties. Beijing believes that Cairo’s management of this dialogue through its Egyptian intelligence service and its head, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, is primarily in the interest of achieving stability and security in the region, especially due to the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict, through the success of the Egyptian side represented by Major General “Abbas Kamel”, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, in developing a vision General to prevent the renewal of the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, through:
– The Chinese agreement on the success of the Egyptian intelligence delegation, led by Major General “Abbas Kamel”, in converging views between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in order to develop a mechanism to limit and address violence, incitement, statements and moves that may cause the situation to flare up. This mechanism will submit reports to the leaders of the five countries by next April 2023, when the activities of the meeting session in Sharm El-Sheikh are resumed again.
– China’s desire to play a role with the Egyptian side and with it the Jordanian side in the future within the framework of mediation efforts regionally and internationally by entering China as an active and acceptable party with the Palestinian and Israeli delegations, to agree on establishing a mechanism to take the necessary steps to improve the economic conditions of the Palestinian people in accordance with previous agreements made with the Egyptian side and its intelligence apparatus, which greatly contributes to strengthening the financial position of the Palestinian Authority, which is what China strongly desires by offering a number of development initiatives for the benefit of the Palestinians. This is what was agreed upon in the Sharm El-Sheikh meetings in March 2023, by agreement on this mechanism, provided that reports are submitted to the leaders of the five countries participating in the meeting during the next meeting agreed upon in April, when the activities of the next meeting session in Sharm El-Sheikh resume.
And the most important thing remains, is the admiration of the Chinese for the role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service in settling the file of the conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and its attempt to oblige all parties once again to commit not to prejudice the existing historical status of the holy places in the city of Jerusalem, while renewing the emphasis on the importance of the Hashemite guardianship over the holy places in order to prevent the ignition situation, through the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in this context.
In my opinion – as is the opinion of the concerned authorities in Beijing – that Israel is not as serious this time as the previous times in developing a binding solution to the Palestinian issue, and this is the same confirmed by the Israeli reports issued immediately after the end of the meeting, emphasizing that there are no new decisions from the meeting issued in Sharm El-Sheikh, except to confirm what the participants had reached in the previous Aqaba meeting, which was held at the end of February 2023 with the Israelis, on the other hand, emphasizing the importance of continuing what was agreed upon.
The Israelis are also afraid of the lack of real guarantees to ensure that the safety of their citizens will not be compromised according to the same Israeli analyzes, and what we mean here is the shooting attack in the (Palestinian Hawara Town in the West Bank), located in the Nablus Governorate, through the threat issued at the moment of the five-party meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh by the Israeli Prime Minister, “Benjamin Netanyahu”, that: “Those who try to harm the citizens of Israel have their blood spilled, and it is more severe at the hands of the security forces in the field”. With the presence of Israeli calls by members of the Israeli Knesset during the moments of the five-party meeting in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh calling for erasing (Hawara Town) in the West Bank of Palestine from existence now without apology and without stuttering, according to statements made by a number of Israeli officials themselves.
There are also fears that the Israelis will not adhere to what was agreed upon in the Sharm El-Sheikh meetings, as was the case in the meetings in the Jordanian city of Aqaba in February 2023, for not extracting real guarantees and pledges from the participating Israeli delegation and its procrastination in making an accurate Israeli commitment to restraint in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the release of Palestinian prisoners in return for reducing the ongoing Palestinian operations. The refusal of the Hamas movement itself to participate in any meetings with the Israeli side came as a question mark, especially with the Hamas movement itself denouncing the participation of the Palestinian Authority in the meeting, by asserting that meeting with Israeli officials means giving them the opportunity and cover to commit more crimes and violations against the Palestinian people and sanctities religious.
Nor did the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting address the political issues circulating between Palestine and Israel, foremost of which is the existence and continuation of the Israeli occupation, the apartheid regime and the continued construction of Israeli settlements imposed by the Israeli occupation, in addition to the massacres it commits against the Palestinian people themselves.
Also, the formula of the final statement that was agreed mainly upon in Sharm El-Sheikh talked about stopping talking about establishing settlement units for the next four months, which implicitly means turning a blind eye to the 13 second Israeli settlements, in addition to turning a blind eye to the 10,000 settlement units that it approved. Israel recently. This raises concerns about the Israeli lack of commitment to any real outputs to resolve the crisis, mainly with the Palestinian side.
The same Palestinian refusal also revolves around the part of talking about the need to put in place mechanisms to put an end to violence, which means, from the Palestinian point of view, their equality in this regard with the Israelis who use violence the most. Therefore, the main fear remains that the Israelis will try to drag the Palestinians to stop the resistance without real Israeli and American guarantees to the Palestinian side, while at the same time trying to lure the Palestinian side by Israel into an internal conflict, at a time when the Palestinians are subjected to violence and physical liquidation by the Israeli occupation forces and its settlers. These are all points of great importance in confronting the Israelis, and the Israeli side did not undertake to develop a final and binding solution to them.
Hence, China is trying to study and benefit from all the accumulated Egyptian experiences through its intelligence apparatus and its chief, Major General “Abbas Kamel” to present itself as an acceptable alternative and as a guarantor to advance the peace process in the region. Accordingly, we find that the consensus of visions between the Chinese and the Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian sides to resolve the outstanding issues with the Israelis is that the solution to the issue must be based on the principle of long-term solutions to solve all the outstanding problems in proposing a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, such as the issues of refugees, Israeli settlements and the protection of religious and Islamic sanctities in The city of Jerusalem, the cessation of escalation and violence, and other issues, which must be based on the principle of the two-state solution, according to an international and Chinese consensus and a basic line of integrity and justice led by Egypt and Jordan regionally, to ensure firm adherence to them, especially by the Israelis. Here, the West Asia and North Africa Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for following up, analyzing and evaluating all Middle East issues, affirms that the concerned parties must be able to translate political will into constructive policies and procedures, and make tangible efforts through the Egyptian intelligence mediation efforts of Major General “Abbas Kamel” and the Jordanian side, then as a desire A future Chinese to engage with them as an active and acceptable party to mediation and settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, to achieve a two-state solution on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative, and other well-known international consensuses and standards, with which China is compatible with the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its head. Major General “Abbas Kamel” and the Jordanians.
Iranian Strategic Patience: Israel and the Soft Wars
Unfortunately, by tracking the pattern of strategies of many countries based on exaggerated interest in human rights, women’s and democracy issues in Iran (such as the case of the death of the Iranian girl Mahsa Amini), it is no longer possible to ignore the extent of the political, security and cultural exploitation that is taking place. This pattern was adopted previously in Syria, which led to its entry into the quagmire of war since 2011. Therefore, based on the presence of Iran in the same political direction, the same pattern was followed, as the issue is linked primarily to confronting Iran’s rising power.
In principle, there is a strategy that has become clear and known, it is based on cultural backgrounds whose main goal is to fragment societies from within (soft wars). As many countries (Israel in particular) cannot accept at all the reality of Iran’s presence as a major regional power. Where, despite all the sanctions policies pursued to isolate and marginalize Iran during the past 45 years, Iran was able to build its own strength and consolidate its regional influence.
Consequently, those countries that are hostile to Iran have no choice but to move towards exploiting some controversial issues within Iranian society related to human rights, women and democracy, in order to destabilize and weaken it. Accordingly, these countries moved towards the option of soft war through:
- Cultural penetration within Iranian society to tear apart its political structure.
- Supporting terrorist movements, including trying to reproduce a new ISIS.
In this context, there is a lot of evidence confirming these external interventions aimed at plunging Iran into internal conflicts and wars, including but not limited to:
- Seizing arms shipments coming from abroad, which coincided with the internal riots.
- Dismantling terrorist cells that were planning to assassinate figures of Arab origin and carry out terrorist operations in religious places in order to ignite a civil war.
- Arresting terrorist groups linked to foreign intelligence working to smuggle weapons.
Based on these facts, it seems that the main goal is to destroy the societal structure, exaggerate political polarization, and undermine security stability. So that Iran becomes more fragile and subject to division. Practically, the Iranian Republic is facing a hybrid war, whose political goal is based on confronting Iranian influence, where this influence is based on:
– Sticking to the nuclear program.
– Supporting the resistance movements in their confrontation with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
– Being present in Syria and assisting the Syrian army in its war against terrorist movements.
– Supporting the Houthis in Yemen permanently.
– Consolidate influence in Iraq at all levels.
– Strategic rapprochement with both Russia and China.
Here, it must be recognized that the internal Iranian tensions are a winning card that the United States and Israel have tried to exploit to incite the Iranian people against the regime and clash with it. This new situation or challenge required the Iranian government to adopt a different vision on how to deal with such developments. Where the Iranian government and its security institutions followed a policy of restraint and not taking any provocative step that might lead to a clash. On the contrary, work has been done to:
1- Absorbing the anger of the people and allowing demonstrations.
2- Closely monitoring the security situation and controlling terrorist cells.
3- Revealing to Iranian society the dirty policies of mobilization and media incitement.
4- Evidence that many opposition movements are linked to the agenda of foreign countries.
5- Linking the internal events with the pattern based on the implementation of the Syrian model in Iran.
In this context, and regardless of the extent of the Iranian government’s ability to confront these soft wars, there are very serious political, cultural and internal security challenges that can no longer be ignored, and they require a reconsideration of many policies that were thought to have become axiomatic, including:
– It is no longer possible to pursue a policy that is based on holding Iranian governments accountable and neutralizing the Supreme Leader of the Revolution or the institution of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist(Guardianship of the Faqih), from any responsibility.
– The existence of radical changes linked to security threats, which are no longer confined to the Israeli threat, but have extended to include terrorist movements.
– Increasing the complexities associated with foreign plans that seek to undermine the foundations of the Iranian state.
– Internal crises appear to be the most dangerous, and may lead to making strategic concessions at the level of the nuclear file, the Palestinian cause, and the relationship with Syria and the resistance movements.
In sum, the exaggerated interest in human rights issues comes in the context of the pressures that Iran has been exposed to for decades, to achieve geopolitical goals. However, according to how Iran faced the previous challenges, it seems that it is able to overcome the current difficulties, as the pillars of the state are still solid at all levels.
Furthermore, Iran’s ability to reassess its foreign relations should not be underestimated, based on the equation that Iran’s security is linked to the security of the region. Iran has many options that enhance this equation. There are multidimensional entitlements linked to the Iranian reality, whether in terms of the nuclear program or an increase in the intensity of the collision with Israel or energy security. For example, it is no longer possible to always rely on Iran’s continued restraint in Yemen, the resulting regional and global strategic repercussions, at least on the level of global energy security balances.
Not to mention that if Iran’s strategic patience runs out, it is not at all unlikely that Iran will directly target Israeli interests. Perhaps at some point the confrontation may be direct within occupied Palestine itself. As Iran is fully aware that all attempts to destabilize it cannot be separated at all from the reactions of Israel, which faces an existential danger after losing all its wars with the axis of resistance that is fully and unlimitedly supported by the Iranian Republic.
From our partner RIAC
Resumption of Saudi-Iranian relations, motives, and repercussions on the Middle East region
After 7 years of diplomatic estrangement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, recently announced in a joint statement between Tehran, Riyadh and Beijing that the two countries agreed to turn the page on their differences and normalize relations that have witnessed many tensions over the past decade. The two sides agreed to respect the sovereignty of states and not to interfere in their internal affairs, to resume relations and to reopen their embassies within a maximum period of two months. Tehran and Riyadh also agreed to the activation of their 2001 security cooperation agreement as well as their 1998 general agreement for collaboration in the areas of economy, commerce, business, technology, science, culture, sports, and youth.
The Saudi-Iranian agreement is considered the most important diplomatic event in the region during the past years, if it is adhered to, and it will have many repercussions and indications on the conflict-ridden Middle East region. After numerous unresolved rounds in Iraq and Oman in the years 2021–2022, the announcement of the agreement from Beijing is an unparalleled success for Chinese diplomacy, with significant repercussions on the international and regional arena. The agreement is a change in China’s strategy and foreign policy and an important geopolitical breach in the Gulf region, which will enable it to play an important and major strategic and pivotal role with the decline of the American role, which was the main player in the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have grown more aware of the necessity of a diplomatic resolution at this time and are more willing to do so, especially after the entry of China with its comprehensive strategic relations with the two parties, which played a significant role in bringing the parties’ differing points of view closer together following years of protracted negotiations. Each of the parties has its own reasons for reaching this diplomatic agreement. On the Iranian side, Iran is now in need of easing the external international isolation and calmed the situation inside Iran after the deterioration of the situation and the demands of the people to overthrow the regime there. Iran also felt the danger approaching after the halt of nuclear talks with the US side and the constant Israeli threat of a possible military strike to stop its nuclear program, and it is now trying to neutralize the Gulf side and relieve the increasing pressure on it.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia wanted to get out of this dilemma and having any role in the event that Iran will be targeted, which might make it and the rest of the Gulf countries vulnerable to danger. As a result, many Arab and Gulf countries declared their refusal to join any armed alliance against Iran prior to Biden’s visit to the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also recently realized the failure of the United States to fulfill its promises to secure the Kingdom, especially in the wake of the attacks that targeted various important infrastructures in the Kingdom over the past few years. While it was anticipated that Washington would respond forcefully and firmly, Washington removed the Patriot batteries from the Kingdom and demonstrated that it had lost the ability to do anything to stop Iran and its arms in the region, despite the repeated targeting during the administrations of both American parties under Trump and Biden. Therefore, it is possible that Saudi Arabia tried playing it differently and went for a political deal that would spare it the negative effects of the conflict with Iran and the betrayal of its allies.
The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is clearly deteriorating, and the gap has grown since Riyadh recently refused to increase oil production despite Biden’s visit to the Kingdom, which Washington interprets as Saudi support for Russia in financing its war on Ukraine.
There has also been a discernible shift in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, favoring negotiation over conflict and emphasizing economic growth. As a result, Saudi Arabia has tried to improve ties with the majority of its regional rivals recently, as was the case with Turkey. The political solution with Iran may have been reached after all other options had been exhausted, the most recent of which was direct involvement in Yemen to assist the Yemeni government in its fight against the Iranian-backed Houthis.
It is obvious that there will be many shocks in the days to come. The decline in US-Saudi ties and Saudi Arabia’s openness to China and Russia could change the balance of power in the region and the world. The Iranian-Saudi deal, which was supported by China, was also a serious setback for the United States of America and its ally Israel, which may force the United States to change its foreign policy and rearrange its cards again to restore its influence in the region, after it witnessed a major shift towards East Asia, away from the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf.
The Iranian-Saudi deal, if it is upheld and carried out by both parties, will have great and positive repercussions on the Middle East region, which has been enflamed by conflicts for many years, and will mark the beginning of a political solution to many heated and crisis files in the region such as, the Yemeni, Syrian, and Lebanese crises.
This agreement between the two major regional players in the region will not be the end of all of their conflicts, but it is an important step towards developing common visions for thorny issues in a way that contributes to resolving the internal crises of many countries in the region, which may need a long time to be resolved, due to the lack of trust between the two sides, as well as the existence of International and regional countries which are not satisfied with the agreement and will try hard to thwart it.
The commitment of the two parties to the deal and the impact it will have on the regional and international situation will become more clear in the coming months, as well as whether it will result in stability and security in the region or spark new, more complicated confrontations.
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