Voices From The Arab Press: Tehran and Beijing— An alliance resting on a long history

Relations between China and the United States have reached an all-time low under Trump, ever since the latter imposed tariffs on Chinese imports.

(FROM LEFT) Iran’s head of delegation Majid Shafiepour Motlagh, China’s head of delegation Xie Zhenhua and COP24 president Michal Kurtyka smile after adopting the final agreement during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, on December 15. (photo credit: REUTERS)
(FROM LEFT) Iran’s head of delegation Majid Shafiepour Motlagh, China’s head of delegation Xie Zhenhua and COP24 president Michal Kurtyka smile after adopting the final agreement during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, on December 15.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Bayan, UAE, December 17
The administration of US President Donald Trump has placed China among the list of countries exempt from the new sanctions against the Iranian terrorist regime, but only for six months, starting in November, so that Beijing can settle its affairs in relation to its former oil deals.
Therefore, in the next five months, Beijing will be able to obtain Iranian oil as it has done over the past five decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1971. It remains to be seen what will happen after this grace period expires. Will Beijing stop cooperating with Tehran and sacrifice its trade and energy interests for the sake of protecting US interests? Or will it rebel against Washington and maintain its partnership with Iran?
Relations between China and the United States have reached an all-time low under Trump, ever since the latter imposed tariffs on Chinese imports. This casts a heavy doubt over Beijing’s next moves. For obvious reasons, Tehran is courting China and hoping to win its support on this issue.
Having China by its side would constitute a major victory for Iran. The mullahs have already begun their effort to get the Chinese on board. There have been campaigns in Iran stressing the longstanding history of trade between the two ancient nations, which goes back thousands of years.
While this may seem like a desperate attempt to an outsider, the two countries do, in fact, share a historical alliance. During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Chinese firms were the only ones that agreed to provide arms to Tehran, allowing it to maintain its war effort despite American sanctions. In the late 1980s, more than 70% of weapons used by Iran originated from China. Beijing rightfully views Tehran as an important regional player, and might not rush to end its ties with the Iranian regime.
Therefore, China may defy the US sanctions and choose to help Iran avoid the pressure of the sanctions imposed upon it, just like it has done in the past. However, if it is interested in normalizing its ties with Washington, then it will have to accept the American sanctions and reevaluate its trade agreements with Iran. This will be an important milestone that will set the tone for both regional, as well as global, politics. I suggest we wait to see what Beijing decides to do.
– Abdallah al-Madani
Restoring the Palestinian cause to its rightful place
Al-Quds al-Arabi, London, December 13
The world has already grown accustomed to the American support of the Israeli occupation. This has become even worse during the presidency of Donald Trump, who has supported injustice wherever it occurs around the world. In a new attempt to defend Israel, Washington recently submitted a draft to the UN General Assembly calling to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. However, this initiative failed to pass after it received the support of 87 countries, but was turned down by 57 others, with 33 abstentions. This prevented the Americans and Israelis from reaching the two-thirds majority they needed to pass the resolution.
The vote does still provide us with a few important lessons. First, among the 87 states that supported the American-Israeli effort are most powerful countries economically and militarily. This is a grave reminder that we, the Palestinian people, have still not gathered the international support we seek to gain. Some of the strongest countries in the world still don’t view the Palestinian cause as an important one. Second, the fact that many European states voted in favor of the resolution isn’t shocking. What is shocking, however, is the fact that so many Latin American states did.
Chile, for example, which is home to a sizable community of Palestinian expats and a relatively small Jewish community, decided to vote together with the US. This should provide us with our second lesson: that we still haven’t mastered the art of lobbying. Palestinian communities around the world have been ineffective at convincing political stakeholders to support the Palestinian cause. Jewish ones, however, have mastered this art.
Finally, a look at the countries that voted in our favor reveals a long list of African nations. These are countries that have supported Palestine throughout the decades. Their interest in the Palestinian cause isn’t new. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what our embassies and diplomatic missions around the world are doing. Are they simply preaching to the choir? Or are they investing resources and efforts into growing awareness towards Palestinian suffering in new countries around the world?
Finally, despite the warnings I mentioned above, there is one positive sign here: that both Russia and China, two of the world’s strongest superpowers, voted together with the Palestinians. This should remind us that these are two important arenas in which we should invest more diplomatic efforts. We should do everything we can to upgrade our ties with Moscow and Beijing and recruit their support in future votes. The time has come to move away from talking and start doing. The Palestinian cause should be restored to its rightful place at the top of the international agenda. The task, whether we like it or not, is up to us.
– Riyadh Naasan Agha
Yemen and the Stockholm Agreement
Al-Wasat, Bahrain, December 17
The negotiations held between representatives of the Saudi-backed Hadi regime and the Houthi rebels last week in Stockholm are the only way forward for Yemen. The risks associated with losing this limited opportunity to achieve a ceasefire are far too grave. Without the Stockholm talks, the appalling loss of human lives will continue to take place in Yemen. There is a very limited window of opportunity and we must take a hold of it before its too late.
What the Yemeni people want, regardless of political affiliation, is to survive. There is terrible lack of food in the country. Children have been out of schools for months, if not years. The people of Yemen need to understand that they all want the same basic necessities, even if they disagree with each other politically. The lessons we learned from Somalia are still very fresh in our minds. The most dangerous thing that can happen to a country is that the world is accustomed to seeing it torn and drenched in its blood, unable to save itself and resisting the will of others to save it. Somalia has been forgotten and abandoned.
History teaches us that it is difficult to force people to establish peace if they do not seek to establish it themselves. Coming back from war is much harder than going into it. War creates deep hatred, bitterness and resentment.
Conflict breeds further conflict, creating a never-ending spiral of violence. For all these reasons, the Stockholm Agreement is so terribly important. It is an opportunity for the people of Yemen to make decisions for themselves, without being given dictates from world powers. It is an opportunity for the various factions to separate themselves from the fighting and think about the future they want to establish for themselves and their people.
Furthermore, there is currently a will on behalf of world powers to support the Yemeni people and their efforts to reach peace. The efforts of the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, have clearly demonstrated this will.
Negotiations will not be easy. Not only because the devil is in the details, but also because Yemen’s structure is almost as difficult as its terrain, and because war has added new fears to old ones.
The Stockholm station was an opportunity to get off the train taking Yemen toward complete destruction. The Houthis will be making a grave mistake if they deliberately jump from it. Now is the time to sit around the same table and talk. This may be the last chance the Yemeni people get to end the terrible war that has plagued their country for the past three years. – Ghassan Sherbil
Erdogan’s newfound love for Assad
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, December 18
The diplomatic race over who will have more political clout in Damascus is officially on. Turkey, which has tightened its relations with the Syrian regime during the past year, has become one of the leading contenders in this race.
This is a somewhat new development, since Ankara has historically been supportive of the Syrian opposition, not the regime. Indeed, it is safe to say that the final collapse of the Syrian opposition occurred not due to Russia’s intervention in Syria, nor due to Bashar Assad’s attacks against opposition strongholds. It was the fact that Ankara pulled away its support for Syrian dissidents and destroyed the political infrastructure on which these group relied.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to put his country on a new path of realignment with Syria and Iran. He turned his back on the White House and joined hands with America’s biggest foes in the region. There have even been discussions of potential arms deals between Ankara and Moscow, despite American demands not to do.
This becomes all the more alarming when one considers the fact that Turkey is a NATO member that is supposed to be committed to US interests in the Middle East. But Turkey has long neglected these commitments. In fact, some might describe what is currently happening in Syria as a direct war between the US and Turkey. While the former is arming and funding anti-Assad Kurdish militias, the latter is actively fighting them.
Meanwhile, Moscow is pushing and promoting its own plan for a Syrian ceasefire, which continues to undermine US interests in the region. Given the current situation on the ground, it is safe to say that Washington has lost its battle over Syria.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
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