February 04, 2008
My regular readers will know I haven’t written an article on current affairs or international politics for quite some time. What they won’t know is that I haven’t even been watching or reading the news — at all. Last night I thought to myself: the U.S. could declare war on Iran and the first I would know would be when somebody told me on the street, or worse overhear someone else talking about it. As I strongly believe that a U.S. war with Iran would either start or become nuclear, and I fear that China and/or Russia would join the war on Iran’s side, I would like to know a lot sooner if the U.S. does take the plunge.
I started reading the news again last night, and found that the same geopolitical posturing is still going on, but with one additional influencing factor, France’s pro-U.S. foreign policy under Nicolas Sarkozy. I was still watching the news when Sarkozy was elected and I knew then that he would be pro-U.S., but given how disastrous such a move was for Tony Blair I could never have predicted how pro-U.S.
Pro-U.S. enough to be not only adding to the powder-keg that is the U.S./Iran nuclear stand-off, but making it far more likely to turn to war. On a recent visit to the Middle East, Sarkozy reached a deal with that will see a small French base built in the United Arab Emirates. To an Iran already threatened by the U.S.’ biggest regional ally and mighty nuclear power: Israel, this base is yet another forward base of attack on their doorstep should the U.S launch a strike.
Therefore, not only has this made a peaceful resolution to the nuclear stand-off less likely, on the grounds that Iran going nuclear was to give them a deterrent against attack, which they now need all the more, but it has also created the potential for further retaliatory moves by Iran that could make the worst-case scenario of China and Russia entering any war more likely.
Moves like Iran finally giving in and granting a Chinese base either in Iran or on one of its islands. China recently overtook Germany as Iran’s biggest trade partner, and is reliant on Iran for oil and gas to fuel its continued economic growth, and so determined to prevent a U.S. attack on Iran. This determination has already led to China selling major arms to Iran such as Ballistic missiles and air-defence radars to fend of a U.S. attack.
China and Russia also granted Iran observer status to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2006. So far Iran’s desire to obtain full membership hasn’t become a reality, but the recent U.S./India nuclear cooperation deal, which, perceived by China as a move to contain their advances, makes it a step closer.
The level of military cooperation, and the likelihood of all S.C.O. states joining a war on behalf of one member state is a matter of opinion. Some say it is only a trade organization, the fact that all members made a verbal pact to defend each others sovereignty at the 2006 meeting isn’t enough for them. It is for me and I personally believe that the possibility is there that China would step in on behalf of Iran to protect its interests.
I doubt that even China knows for sure what it will do in the event that the U.S. does go to war, but I don’t doubt that their moves are to create the impression that they would support Iran in war, or sew enough doubt that they wouldn’t to prevent the U.S. from attacking. A Chinese base in Iran would be an excellent leg of this aim. The downside of a Chinese base in Iran is that, should any Chinese soldiers be injured in any U.S. attack it would make a Chinese entry into the war more likely.