This is a guest note by Flynt Leverett. Flynt directs the New America Foundation/Iran Project and is the former Senior Director of Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council. He is also publisher of the forthcoming blog, The Race For Iran.
A lot of attention is being focused on Chinese policy toward Iran, particularly with reference to the Obama Administration’s threats to impose “crippling” international sanctions if diplomacy does not provide Washington with satisfaction (however defined) regarding Iran’s nuclear activities.
This week, the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS published a monograph on China-Iran relations that I co-authored with Hillary Mann Leverett and John Garver (an outstanding China expert at Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs).
All modesty aside, the monograph, Moving (Slightly) Closer to Iran: China’s Shifting Calculus for Managing Its “Persian Gulf Dilemma”, is the best work out there on this critical issue. The monograph documents how China is proceeding to develop an increasingly strategic energy relationship with the Islamic Republic – including a growing number of upstream investment positions by Chinese energy companies.
While China remains disinclined to challenge America’s longstanding hegemony in the Gulf directly, Beijing is becoming more assertive about advancing its own economic and energy interests in Iran. Under these circumstances, China is not about to support anything approaching “crippling” economic sanctions against Iran.
Of course, China’s developing ties to the Islamic Republic have broader geopolitical implications. Later this week, Hillary and I will launch a new blog, The Race for Iran, focused on the Islamic Republic and its geopolitics. We think that many readers of The Washington Note will also like The Race for Iran, and invite you to give it a try.
— Flynt Leverett