Alwaght- Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif arrived in Beijing on Tuesday at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. The visit followed Zarif’s talks with his Russian counterpart in Moscow. The issues discussed during the visits demonstrated the fast growth of the trilateral cooperation over the past few years marked by last week’s naval drills by the Chinese Russian, and Iranian navies in the Sea of Oman and Indian Ocean.
Teaming up against unilateralism
The Iranian FM visit to China comes in an appropriate diplomatic atmosphere on the heels of the unprecedented and large-scale naval drills. The drills, meant to promote peace and stability in the region, had a huge influence in vitiating the US-led maritime alliance which Iran says was established for ill-intentions.
Iran and China both agree that the US military measures and interventionist strategy in West Asia and particularly Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz are the main causes of the regional tensions. Their naval exercises carried a clear message: they cannot simply be onlookers to the US overhearing policies in a region vital to the world energy supply and a gate all of the countries want it safe and away from the hegemonic powers.
In fact, Zarif’s trips to Russia and China are complementary to the Islamic Republic’s strategic measures along with the two Security Council powers. In talks with his Chinese counterpart, Zarif said that Iran and China are united in their joint efforts to fight unilateralism and promote multilateralism in 2020.
As the world moves to multipolar order from the unipolar one, Iran, which is located in the “heartland” region and holding such peace initiatives as Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), can have a pivotal role in the transition to the new order. After talks with the Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, Zarif said that Russia supports the HOPE initiative and that Tehran appreciates the Russian positive role in the region and backs Moscow plan for the Persian Gulf security. He in a Twitter message unveiled a 25-year partnership roadmap.
His Twitter post read: “Delighted to welcome 2020 with our Chinese friends in Beijing.
Potentials of 25-year bilateral roadmap to further solidify Iran-China comprehensive strategic partnership are immense.
We intend to realize them, while also pursuing closer regional and global cooperation.”
In his Russia visit, Zarif talked bilateral relations as well as regional and international developments with Lavrov. They both emphasized the growing cooperation in all areas. They added that there are even more grounds for broader ties, including the Eurasia Economic Union, using national currencies in bilateral trade and ditching the US dollar, and technological cooperation.
Partners’ nuclear discussions
Zarif paid the visit to Russia and China while only a week was left to the Iranian deadline set for the West to show commitment to the nuclear deal. Tehran has warned that it would take the fifth step of reducing its nuclear agreement commitments if Europeans fail. Russia and China have been more committed than the other signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal– the US, Britain, Germany, and France. Lavrov, on Monday during joint press conference with Zarif warned about collapse of the agreement if the US does not return and Iran abandons commitment to it. He continued that only if the US, which pulled out of it in May 2018, returns, the European signatories can fulfill their commitments.
Among the Security Council members, China puts the biggest emphasis on saving the nuclear deal. China’s FM in his talks with Zarif reiterated the commitment to the agreement. He blasted the US President Donald Trump and bullying behavior. He added: China and Iran should stand together against unilateralism and bullying.”
Just unlike Europe, China insists that the US is the cause of the current tensions with Iran. China foreign ministry’s spokesman Gang Shuang in a recent press conference said that Beijing tries to save the nuclear deal. He went on: “the US violated its international commitments and put severe pressure on Iran. This is the cause of Iran nuclear tensions. He further told the journalists that Beijing is willing to work with Tehran advance sustainable growth and comprehensive strategic collaboration.
Russia and China role in nuclear deal’s future
Economically, Iran successfully weathered the sanctions and strategically engaged in trilateral naval drills to show off its power. That is while Zarif is expected to travel to New York in mid-January. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said that Zarif was invited to join the Security Council special meeting on the goals of the UN charter on the 70th anniversary of UN foundation. The spokesman said: “the meeting will give a chance to talk unilateralism and its consequences on the international order.”
The Iranian diplomacy comes amid recent European threats to trigger “snapback mechanism”. The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was first to make such threat. In late November 2019, he said that the EU seriously mulls triggering the snapback mechanism that can reimpose the sanctions on Iran. On December 20, Reuters reported that in January the European diplomats will refer to the dispute-solving mechanism of the nuclear deal, officially dubbed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). France, Britain, and Germany have agreed to move to resend Iran’s case to the Security Council but will wait to see what Iran will do in reducing its nuclear commitments.
Iran has so far taken four steps to reduce its nuclear commitments allowed by the JCPOA’s articles 26 and 36 in response to the West’s decline to meet what it promised to do under the nuclear deal. Two steps remain to full withdrawal. Tehran says fifth step is developing nuclear propulsion capability for maritime use, and sixth step will be withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The articles 26 and 36 provide dispute-solving mechanism within the JCPOA. According to article 36, if Iran or other signatories believe that the other side does not stand by its commitments, they can refer the case to a joint commission which has 15 days to solve the case or the time can be extended by a collective agreement. If the commission fails to offer a solution, article 37 will be triggered, referring the case to the Security Council, which should decide on continuation of suspension of sanctions or take other steps. It has 30 days to teach a solution. Otherwise, the sanctions will return to their pre-JCPOA form. This mechanism is called “snapback” and cannot be vetoed.
A country can trigger the snapback that is a member of the nuclear deal. So, the US cannot take the move. Only the European trio, as well as China and Russia, can do so. The EU has so far not implemented the sanctions-circumventing mechanism known as INSTEX, or Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, triggering provoking Iranian steps. Europe possibly will still play good-and-bad police role in the case.
Russia and China play two important roles: under the article 37 and as they confirm Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA terms, Moscow and Beijing can influence the Security Council’s decision to prevent activation of snapback mechanism. Second role will be after possible activation of snapback mechanism. Even if the sanctions are reinstated and Iran’s case goes under UN Chapter VII, Russia and China will not be accordant with the US’s anti-Iranian pressures as in the past.