China Cheers as Russia Fuels Iran's Reactor
Attempts by the Obama administration to "reset" relations with Russia have included the unilateral suspension of near-term plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe; the signing of the bilateral START arms control agreement; and U.S. support for Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization. Moscow rewarded these efforts by announcing last Friday (Aug. 13) that Russian and Iranian specialists will begin installing uranium fuel rods into the Bushehr nuclear reactor on August 21. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the state-run Rosatom organization, will personally attend the opening ceremony.
Washington has opposed this action, but to no avail. Once operational, the reactor will produce plutonium than can be used for weapons. Given the rogue nature of the Tehran regime, its claims that the Bushehr plant is a "peaceful" facility separate from its military program is not credible.
It should be remembered that the missile defense system planned by the Bush administration for Poland and the Czech Republic was designed as a shield against the Iranian threat. When Russia objected, it was identifying its security interests with Iran's, both being based on the ability to attack Europe.
China has also identified its interests with those of Iran. It was likely not a coincidence that on the same day the Russians made their announced about Bushehr, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times ran an editorial in support of Tehran and against the U.S. for "building its case against Iran by overstating the threat Iran poses to regional peace and stability" and for "dragging the entire region into dangerous uncertainty." The voice of Beijing's ruling party argued,
As a country with a long history and profound religious background, Iran deserves the right to keep its dignity and choose its own path of development. China respects its rights and sticks to the principle of solving the Iranian nuclear issue by using diplomatic means, a longtime policy it holds in solving international conflicts.
This long-standing policy makes clashes with the US more likely and is harder to avoid.
The US is not only casting the shadow of war on to the world, but it is also harming China's interests.
The US and its coalition have been trying to press China to change its mind by isolating it, a tactic that is not working out. The US is learning the limitations of its policies and hearing more from China.
The editorial claimed that "China is against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons" but that "China has to secure its strategic interests in Iran." Beijing has the leverage to stop Tehran's nuclear program, just as it does with North Korea. It has not done so in either case because its strategic interests dictate otherwise. A small nuclear capability is thought to be a guarantee against "regime change." China is aligning with Iran as the dominant power in the oil-rich Middle East.
The Global Times sees sanctions against Iran failing as Russia, China and unspecified "European countries" pursue business deals with the Tehran regime. Thus the diplomatic track will continue to be a futile effort to stem Iran's ambitions, just as China and Russia have intended. This leaves only a military response or the acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran. The Beijing-Moscow-Tehran axis is betting on the latter outcome.