Posing Problems without an Alliance: China-Iran Relations after the Nuclear Deal

By Joel Wuthnow Strategic Forum 290

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Key Points

  • China is poised to increase economic and diplomatic cooperation with Iran as a result of sanctions relief under the recent Iran nuclear deal, though a close geopolitical alignment between the two states is unlikely. 
  • Sino-Iranian relations will remain limited by several enduring constraints, including China’s desire for positive ties with other states, its pursuit of energy diversification, and its need for regional stability. 
  • Renewed Chinese arms sales to Iran could constitute an emerging challenge for the United States. This could increase Iran’s antiaccess/ area-denial threat to U.S. military forces and create proliferation risks. 
  • U.S. officials should press Chinese interlocutors to avoid exporting advanced weapons, which could embolden Iran to conduct a more brazen foreign policy that would threaten China’s fundamental need for regional stability.
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