Navy exercises bring Iran, China closer

Iran’s navy commander Habibollah Sayyari (C) points while standing on a naval ship during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran, Jan. 1, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Fars News/Hamed Jafarnejad)

As global media keep their focus on the Islamic State (IS) and the US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, other notable, potentially headline-making events are being missed.

On Sept. 20, China dispatched ships to the Persian Gulf for a joint exercise with the Iranian navy — the first time that Chinese warships have ever sailed in the Gulf. The Chinese missile destroyer Changchun and missile frigate Changzhou of the17th Naval Fleet took part in a five-day joint training drill, the aim of which was „establishing peace, stability, tranquility and multilateral and mutual cooperation,“ according to Adm. Amir Hossein Azad, commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone.

In understanding the move by China and Iran, one must keep three things in mind. First, it is the first time China, a US rival that does not border the Gulf, has ever sailed warships in the Gulf. Second, these exercises signal a boost in Iran’s position in the Gulf and the region. Third, the move cannot be viewed outside China’s response to the US foreign policy concept of „Pivot to Asia,“ which signaled a US plan to shift focus and resources to Asia in response to China’s growing power and influence — a move that China saw as an attempt to contain it.

The Gulf is a globally important strategic location — an area that the United States is willing to spend „blood and iron“ to keep under its influence or, practically, its control. For the Gulf to be approached by China, it would — or should — make the United States take notice.

Boost for Iran

In the past, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it were to come under attack by the United States or Israel for its nuclear program. If Iran were to act on that threat, oil prices would skyrocket. Iran has also expressed discomfort at foreign navy ships sailing in the Gulf.

On April 6, 2012, Iran’s navy saved a Chinese cargo ship from Somali pirates. It has also prevented other pirate attacks on various occasions. It seems there is no need for an external presence in the Gulf since Iran is competent and not in need of China to protect its ships in the Gulf, though Iran would likely welcome the move since China is a close ally. Iran, however, finds it inexcusable that hostile ships from other countries roam the Gulf under the pretext of carrying out anti-piracy or anti-terrorism operations.

In a 2012 interview following the Somali pirate incident, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, commander of Iran’s navy, said in an interview: „With coordination and cooperation, we can easily provide security in the region because we have mutual interests, and only those with mutual and legitimate interests can truly cooperate. So, two or more countries can easily handle this. That’s why we stress there is no need for the presence of foreign troops.“

Having the support of the Chinese navy puts Iran in a stronger position in the Gulf, even if just symbolically, as the US Navy presence in the Gulf by far outmatches its rivals. The United States, however, might reconsider making moves that would potentially anger China, as the two countries possess plenty of mutual interests.

The governments of China and Iran plan for trade between the two countries to reach $200 billion in 10 years. Furthermore, Iran is the third-largest supplier of oil to China, providing for 12% of China’s annual consumption. Therefore, China would want to protect its interests in Iran, as the United States is doing the same in the Gulf. The recent joint navy drills are a push in this regard.

Chinese interests

In mid-September, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The themes of the visits were similar, as China was assisting both countries in economic development, which would in turn provide economic opportunities for China. More important, the countries are part of China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative. Xi promised to cooperate with the Maldives and Sri Lanka on „peace, stability and prosperity,“ as well as „port construction and operation, maritime economy and security, and the construction of a maritime transportation center in the Indian Ocean.“ These initiatives bring China closer to the Middle East and within better reach of Iran, and show that the recent navy drills are part of a greater Chinese foreign policy.

China is obviously trying to counterbalance the US „Pivot to Asia“ policy. China is already experiencing plenty of tensions in the South China Sea, with conflicts over islands and maritime issues with neighboring countries. The United States is exploiting such tensions and concerns among China’s neighbors. For example, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Vietnam in August, making him the highest-ranking US military officer to visit Vietnam since 1971.

Dempsey’s recent visit comes only a few months after tensions increased between Vietnam and China, as Chinese vessels and Vietnamese navy ships collided in the South China Sea. The Chinese vessels were setting up an oil rig in an area claimed by both countries. In his visit, Dempsey spoke about the possibility of lifting the ban on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam that has been in place since the Vietnam War. He also mentioned in his visit maritime common security interests, referring to the common rival of China.

With the recent exercises, China aims to break free from the containment and strengthen its alliances and capabilities in the Middle East. Perhaps China also has future plans for a permanent presence in the Gulf, or near it, as the United States has done in the South China Sea. The aims of the drills are similar for Iran, as it wants to strengthen its regional position. Yet, China and Iran cannot compete with the more powerful US Navy. Still, China’s ambitions don’t seem short-sighted; it is clearly planning ahead to better secure its trading routes between Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The Chinese navy’s visit to the city of Bandar Abbas is unlikely to be the last. It is a reflection of good relations between China and Iran, and the Maritime Silk Road initiative. Should China in the future strengthen its presence in the Gulf and its Maritime Silk Road, the Chinese warships that docked at Bandar Abbas will always be remembered as a turning point.


Iran’s Medical Shortages: Who’s Responsible?


by Jasmin Ramsey

Press reports about medical supply shortages in Iran, some of which have described devastating consequences, have been surfacing in the last two years, while debate rages on about who’s responsible — the Iranian government or the sanctions regime. Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based business consultant and former Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, admits the Iranian government shares responsibility but says sanctions are the main culprit. Humanitarian trade may be exempted from the sanctions, says Namazi, but that isn’t enough when the banking valve required to carry out the transactions is being strangled. “[I]f [sanctions advocates] maintain the sanctions regime is fine as it is, then how come they try to promote substitution from China and India?” asks Namazi. The following Q&A with Namazi was conducted in Washington, DC.

Q: You recently authored a policy paper published by the Woodrow Wilson Center where you essentially blame medical shortages in Iran on Western sanctions. How did you reach this conclusion?

Siamak Namazi: We concluded that the Iranian government deserves firm criticism for mismanagement of the crisis, poor allocation of scarce foreign currency resources and failing to crack down on corrupt practices, but the main culprit are the sanctions that regulate financial transactions with Iran. So, while Tehran can and should take further steps to improve the situation, it cannot solve this problem on its own. As sanctions are tightened more and more, things are likely to get worse unless barriers to humanitarian trade are removed through narrow adjustments to the sanctions regime.

My team and I reached these conclusions after interviewing senior officers among pharmaceutical suppliers, namely European and American companies in Dubai, as well as private importers and distributors of medicine in Tehran. We also spoke to a number of international banks. None of us had any financial stake in the pharmaceutical business, whatsoever, and we all worked pro bono. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Spiegel: Atomprogramm – Iran orderte 100.000 Magneten für Zentrifugen

Zentrifugen in Atomanlage in Natans (Archivbild): Brisante Order in ChinaZur Großansicht


Zentrifugen in Atomanlage in Natans (Archivbild): Brisante Order in China

Geheime Frachtpapiere belegen: Iran hat versucht, eine gigantische Bestellung für Spezial-Magneten in China aufzugeben. Die Bauteile würden laut „Washington Post“ für bis zu 50.000 Zentrifugen reichen – und die Atompläne des Landes beschleunigen. Ob die Lieferung ausgeführt wurde, ist unklar.

Washington/Teheran – Die Veröffentlichung kommt zu einem brisanten Zeitpunkt. Gerade verhandelt Iran mit der Internationalen Atomenergiebehörde (IAEA) über eine neue Annäherung im Streit über das Atomprogramm des Landes. Nun zeigen interne Papiere: Das Regime in Teheran hat noch vor knapp einem Jahr in China 100.000 hochspezielle Magneten für den Bau von Zentrifugen bestellt.

Wie die „Washington Post“ berichtet, hätten die Bauteile für die Konstruktion von bis zu 50.000 Zentrifugen gereicht. Diese sind entscheidend für die Produktion von angereichertem Uran. Bisher gehen die Beobachter davon aus, dass das Regime in Teheran nur rund 10.000 Zentrifugen zur Verfügung hat.Aus dem Bericht geht nicht hervor, ob die Teile auch tatsächlich geliefert wurden. Das Ausmaß der Order belegt jedoch, wie intensiv das Regime offenbar versucht, sein Atomprogramm voranzutreiben. „Sie positionieren sich, um schnell Fortschritte zu machen“, zitiert das Blatt einen europäischen Diplomaten, der allerdings nicht namentlich genannt wird.

Der Kauf solcher Teile ist Iran unter den derzeit geltenden internationalen Sanktionen nicht erlaubt.

Das Land betont immer wieder, die Nukleartechnik nur für zivile Zwecke und nicht etwa zur atomaren Bewaffnung einsetzen zu wollen. Am Dienstag hatte ein Sprecher der Regierung sogar ein weltweites Verbot von Kernwaffen verlangt. Die friedliche Absicht wird im Westen jedoch massiv angezweifelt. Besonders Israel fürchtet eine Atommacht im nahen Iran.

Vollständiger Artikel


Ties Grow Between Iran and China

The following is an excerpt from a new report by Alireza Nader and Scott Harold entitled “China and Iran: Economic, Political, and Military Relations” issued May 3, 2012 by the Rand Corporation. The full link is at the bottom.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s possible pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability presents a serious challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East. The U.S. strategy to dissuade Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability has relied heavily on international sanctions, in addition to diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic.
No other country is as critical in this effort as the People’s Republic of China. Winning China’s cooperation on sanctions has been difficult, in large part due to the broad and deep partnership between China and Iran. In the past decade, China has become Iran’s number one trading partner. Collaboration between Beijing and Tehran centers on China’s energy needs and Iran’s abundant resources but also includes significant non-energy economic ties, arms sales and defense cooperation, and geostrategic balancing against the United States.
Understanding the nature and range of Chinese-Iranian cooperation is important to crafting a successful U.S. strategy toward Iran. China’s policies have hampered U.S. and international efforts to shape Iran’s decisions on its nuclear program, and continued ChineseIranian cooperation will hinder U.S. attempts to pressure Iran.
The United States has limited options to influence China’s relationship with Iran. Some observers have proposed that the United States use positive inducements to reduce Chinese cooperation with Iran, such as significantly enhancing bilateral relations with China or trading key U.S. interests. However, these policy moves would involve costly trade-offs and are probably politically unfeasible. The United States could also use negative inducements, such as sanctions against Chinese firms, though such measures are also of limited use given China’s economic power. A third approach has been to build a broad international sanctions coalition against Iran, which has raised the diplomatic pressure on China to stop doing business with Iran but increased Iran’s incentive to reach out to Beijing. While China may decrease business ties with Iran, it will nevertheless continue to see Iran as a central actor shaping Chinese interests in the Middle East. The increasing U.S.-Chinese competition in the Pacific region will also have a direct impact on China’s willingness to cooperate with the United States on Iran.
Nevertheless, China and Iran face divergent interests across a number of issues, which could provide opportunities to contain their growing relationship. While some in China see value in leveraging Iran to tie the U.S. down strategically, China is generally reluctant to embrace Iran too tightly for fear of precipitating an open break in ties between China and the United States. Many Iranians perceive China to be exploiting Iran economically while backing an increasingly brutal and repressive regime.
Finally, neither country is destined to remain an authoritarian state forever. Democratic forces in either country could precipitate the emergence of regimes less hostile to the United States—a more democratic Iran that may not pursue nuclear weapons or a China less interested in balancing against the United States. Given that such changes may be far in the future, the United States should continue to forestall an Iranian nuclear weapons capability and pressure China to reduce ties to Iran.


Alireza Nader, coauthor of Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran (RAND, 2011), is a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that improves policy and decision-making through research and analysis.


VOA: China, US to Discuss Iran, Trade Imbalance

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is on a two-day visit to China, where he is expected to discuss U.S. sanctions against Iran and the huge imbalance in China-U.S. trade.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan is hosting Geithner for a dinner in Beijing Tuesday, followed by a day of meetings with Chinese officials on Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin says the two sides will exchange views on economic relations as well as the global financial landscape.

He says the two countries agree on establishing a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.  He adds that Sino-American cooperation is needed to tackle what he describes as “grave” global economic challenges. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

HUAWEI – Protestaktion wegen der Lieferung von Überwachungsanlagen in den Iran

Wieder einmal rufen wir alle Menschenrechtsaktivisten auf, gemeinsam gegen ein international tätiges Unternehmen zu protestieren. Nachdem Siemens/Nokia Network mit der Lieferung eines Monitorsystem den iranischen Behörden ermöglicht, die Kommunikationseinrichtungen zu überwachen, folgt jetzt die chinesische Firma HUAWEI, die weitere Anlagen zur Überwachung der Kommunikation liefert.

Dieses Unternehmen hat auch Niederlassungen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Daher bitten wir alle sich an dieser Aktion zu beteiligen. Solltest IHR in der Nähe einer dieser Niederlassungen wohnen, dann wäre eine Protestkundgebung vor der Niederlassung angemessen.

Aus Berlin können wir EUCH dabei durch den Versand von Pressemitteilungen unterstützen.

Bitte richten SIE den Protest an folgende Niederlassung:

Reuterstr. 122, 53129 Bonn, Germany
Tel:            0049-228-40392-2100
Am Seestern 24, 40547 Düsseldorf, Germany
Tel:            0049-211-52295-1001
Mergenthaleralle 45-47, 65760 Eschborn, Germany
Tel:            0049-6196-96976-00
Tel:            0911-255-2230-00
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