After the U.S. killed Qasem Soleimani, a major military figure in Iran, in a drone strike and Tehran retaliated by launching missiles at American military bases in Iraq, tensions have been high between these two countries. And this might end up turning into a golden opportunity for China, which is trying to build up its influence in the Middle East.
China and Iran
After the U.S. drone strike, Beijing condemned America for its “military adventurism.” Chinese envoy to Iran Chang Hua stressed that Beijing is committed to bolstering its ties with Iran. The Middle Eastern country is a strategic partner in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Building a road infrastructure through Iran to other countries in the Middle East and Europe is necessary for China’s plans of easy market access to these regions. Iran is also one of the biggest sources of crude oil for China. From the perspective of Iran, China offers a partnership that suits its authoritarian tendencies. According to analyst Jonathan Fulton, the U.S. stands to lose the most from the current conflict.
“China is not a revisionist state. It does not want to reshape the Middle East and take over the responsibility of securing it. It wants a predictable, stable region — as much as that is possible — in which it can trade and invest… In killing Soleimani, [President Donald Trump] has made that more challenging. In the short term, that will increase the cost of doing business and most likely put a lot of people at risk. In the long term, however, it may increase China’s power and influence in the Middle East as it assumes a larger responsibility for securing its regional interests,” he said to CNN.
But the closer Iran gets to China, the more the country will push itself into an ideological conflict. China implements a harsh policy against Islam. Muslim minorities like Uyghurs and Kazhaks are often persecuted for their faith. Millions have been sent to internment camps where they are brainwashed to give up Islamic practices like growing a beard, daily prayers, and so on.
China is even rewriting the Quran, an act that is considered sinful by Islamic standards. If Iran keeps getting closer to China, Tehran will be forced to remain silent on the persecution of Muslims in the Asian country. The conservative forces in Iran will certainly not like it. The country’s international reputation as an Islamic country will also take a hit. These are developments that the U.S. might be able to exploit in the future against the Iranian regime.
Protests in Iran
Thousands of Iranians are currently protesting against their country’s government after it came to light that Tehran was responsible for shooting down a civilian Ukrainian passenger jet that killed 176 innocent people. Though the regime lays out the flags of Israel and the U.S. on the roads in hopes that people would walk on them, the protestors make sure that they do not commit such an act.
“These courageous Iranian students who refuse to trample the U.S. & Israeli flags represent the hope for a better Middle East. Engage with and promote them instead of their oppressors, and maybe Iran-backed wars & terror across the region will end,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of the human rights group UN Watch, said in a tweet @HillelNeuer.
U.S. President Donald Trump has issued a stark warning to the Iranian regime, asking that it should not act violently against the protestors. He asked Tehran to reinstate the Internet in the country and allow reporters to do their jobs.