On April 6, parties to the Iran nuclear deal will meet in Vienna to identify “needed actions,” including lifting sanctions and imposing implementation measures, for a resumption of the agreement by all parties.
The meeting is taking place less than two weeks after China and Iran signed a “strategic cooperation agreement” that is set to last 25 years. However, the Vienna talks — which include China — are in their early days and unlikely to affect the Beijing-Tehran agreement, about which speculations remain rife.
Indeed, it is this agreement that ought for now to pique more interest. Does it, for example, presage a formal alliance between China and Iran? Is it an example of China flexing more muscle in the Middle East? The short answer is that it is an example of China and the US’s continued strategic sparring and that it is merely coincidental that it should be happening in the Middle East. (Though the Chinese are not shy about trying to advance their interest if the opportunity is available.)
First, contrary to the claim that the Beijing-Tehran agreement was formulated only last year, it has in fact been more than five years in the making. A joint statement was first issued in January 2016, when China’s President Xi Jinping visited Iran.