The triple alliance of China, Russia and Iran shows its military muscle and challenges Biden

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One of the Chinese ships participating in joint naval exercises with Russia and Iran in the Indian Ocean.
One of the Chinese ships participating in joint naval exercises with Russia and Iran in the Indian Ocean.

The China-Russia-Iran axis is consolidated and prepares to confront the interests of the United States around the globe. A good example of what is happening are the second joint naval maneuvers in just over a year that begin this next week in the Indian Ocean. At the end of December 2019, they were held in the Gulf of Oman. And it is not the only level of cooperation of these three countries: Russia and Iran support the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria and coordinate their military actions; The three are operating in coordination in Venezuela and several African countries; they maintain close alliances with other regional powers such as India and Turkey. And all this unfolds in the vacuum left by the Trump Administration and when the government of Joe Biden is just beginning, which promised to claim for the United States its preeminent role in global affairs. A concept that this Sino-Russian-Iranian axis puts to the test.

The trilateral military exercises were announced last Monday by the Russian ambassador in Tehran, Levan Jagaryan. “The next multilateral naval exercise will be held in the northern Indian Ocean in mid-February 2021,” said Jagaryan. “In its course, it is planned, among other things, to work in cooperation to carry out search and rescue operations and measures to guarantee the safety of navigation.” That same day, President Joe Biden spoke at the State Department and proclaimed that “America is back”, in an apparent return to traditional foreign policy positions that had been “recalibrated” under the policy of “America first” of Trump. Biden promised to be tougher on Russia, in his first phone call he blamed Xi Jinping on Chinese expansionism in Asia and human rights violations and said he would not lift Trump’s sanctions against Iran – when he withdrew. unilaterally from the 2015 nuclear treaty – until the government of the ayatollahs does not stop the enrichment of uranium.

The Beijing-Moscow-Tehran axis is gigantic in demographic terms, with a combined population of 1,500 million inhabitants. Huge, geographically, with 29 million square kilometers and an economy, which together represents 22% of world GDP. In addition, with two of its members: China and Russia, who are part of the exclusive nuclear club and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, with the respective right to veto. The new Axis is also endowed with military power, capable of counteracting, in the areas of dispute, in the naval, land and air field, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Satellite image of the Russian base of Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast of Syria.
Satellite image of the Russian base of Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast of Syria.

Ambassador Jagaryan, who appeared as an occasional spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, reiterated his country’s support for the Iranian nuclear deal and working cooperation on the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant. “The modern history of Russian-Iranian military-technical cooperation is more than 50 years old,” said Jagaryan. “Over the years, in this delicate area, stable contacts have been developed between our countries aimed at mutually beneficial cooperation with the obligatory consideration of the interests of both parties.” In less diplomatic terms, the Kremlin is supplying modern weapons to the Iranians and is testing them in combat in Syria. There, in that country that has been mired in war since 2011, Russia has its powerful naval base in Tartus that allows it an exit through the Mediterranean. The Russian diplomat said he hoped that the two-decade-old agreement outlining bilateral relations between Moscow and Tehran would be automatically renewed for five years, and left the door open for a possible new agreement. Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, hinted a day before another possible long-term agreement with China. He said the signature of a 25-year economic cooperation plan with China “is not far off.” “Our strategic vision for the region must be inclusive, not based on omission,” Zarif said. “Iran is indispensable for the region. No one can omit Iran from the regional equations”.

Iran seeks, above all, to reverse the painful economic restrictions imposed by the United States when it abandoned the nuclear agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after accusing the Iranians of failure to meet uranium enrichment limits. Iran suspended those limits in retaliation for sanctions and the subsequent failure of European parties to normalize their trade ties. But China and Russia remained strong in their support for the JCPOA. The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, thanked both nations for their position and once again challenged the “Great Satan”, which is what the Iranian regime calls the United States since the 1979 Islamic revolution. “If they want Iran to return to its commitments of the JCPOA, The United States must remove all sanctionsKhamenei said. “After they have done this, we will resume our commitments.” State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged that the United States took a unilateral step in leaving the agreement, but maintained the position that Iran will have to take the first step for Washington to return. “If Iran resumes that full compliance, the United States will do the same. Then we will undertake diplomacy to lengthen, reinforce the provisions and use them, again, not as the ceiling but as the floor for follow-up agreements dealing with other elements of Iran’s malign activity. “

President Biden promises to put pressure on Russia and counter its alliance with China and Iran.EFE / MAXIM SHIPENKOV
President Biden promises to put pressure on Russia and counter its alliance with China and Iran.EFE / MAXIM SHIPENKOV

The joint naval exercises come on the heels of Biden in early February ordering USS Nimitz, then the only aircraft carrier of the United States Navy in the Middle East, to leave its area of ​​responsibility and return to its home port in the state of Washington. Just a few weeks earlier, Trump had decided that the aircraft carrier would remain in the region amid increased tension with Iran. The head of CENTCOM, the armed forces command center, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said Iran’s actions present the “most challenging engine of instability” in the Middle East. “The United States faces increasing competition in the region from Russia and China and both countries are trying to contest power and influence through a combination of diplomatic, military and economic means,” added McKenzie speaking at the convention. Middle East Institute virtual, in his first public comments since Biden took office. “Russia and China take advantage of their proximity to the region, their historical relations, the perception of a decline in the commitment of the United States and the crisis caused by Covid to establish and strengthen opportunistic relationships”.

The Sino-Russian-Iranian Triple Alliance was strengthened by the Syrian civil war. They lobbied together on various fronts to prevent Western powers and their Middle Eastern partners from succeeding in overthrowing the Assad regime. That way, set up a military operations base near Iran, southern Russia and western China. In the case of Beijing, this was an indispensable move for its security. From the Middle East and Central Asia, receives about 50% of the oil and gas you need for your economy. Already in May 2014, Xi Jinping stated at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Measures in Asia (CICA), held in Shanghai and attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hasan Rohani, that “CICA must become a dialogue on security and mutual cooperation platform and should establish a defense consultation mechanism in order to create a security response center in case of major emergencies ”. After it was signed a landmark $ 400 billion Russian gas supply deal to China.

That was the beginning of this axis that now shows its military muscle in the Indian Ocean and that promises to be the biggest international policy challenge that Joe Biden and his European allies will face in the next four years.

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