Iran's Chemical Weapons Plant.
Sino-Iranian relations are strengthening as Iran wishes to promote bilateral ties between the two countries, given the fact that Teheran exports to China 500,000 barrels of oil per day.
According to WikiLeaks documents obtained by the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, the US is concerned about China's links with Iran. A cable that was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009, reported that Iran has, as part of its chemical weapons program, a secret plant for which a Chinese company is involved in the transfer of equipment, know-how and technology.
Haaretz writes that Clinton instructed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to take action against this Chinese company, Zibo Chemet. According to the cable, "We have new information indicating that Zibo Chemet transferred technology for the production of glass-lined reactor equipment to Iranian customers, significantly enhancing Iran's ability to produce indigenously chemical equipment suitable for a chemical warfare program." According to the regulations of the Australia Group, a multinational organization that seeks to prevent exports of materials intended for use in biological or chemical weapons programs, these kinds of sales are forbidden.
Zibo Chemet is suspected of selling sensitive technology to Iran, North Korea and Syria. The Chinese company was already sanctioned by Washington in 2007; but despite the sanctioning, Zibo Chemet kept on supplying Iran with technology and expertise that would allow the Iranian regime "to produce glass-lined reactor vessels resistant to the chemicals they contain. The raw chemicals from which weapons, such as nerve gas, are produced are placed into these containers, which must be glass-coated so the chemicals don't eat away at the containers and evaporate into the air".
The selling of sensitive technology by Zibo Chemet is not an isolated case. The FBI has investigated other Chinese companies violating the UN embargo on Teheran. In 2010, a Chinese from Taiwan, Kevin Chen Yi-Lan, and his Taiwan Corporation, Landstar Tech Company Limited, pled guilty to attempting to export thousands of missile components to Iran.
Previously, in 2009, the Shangai-based Roc-Master Manufacture and Supply Company ordered from a Swiss manufacturer, Inficon Holding, 108 pressure transducers. These gauges, essential for centrifuge uranium enrichment, were then delivered to Iran. Another Chinese company, Zhejiang Ouhai Trade Corp, allegedly delivered to Iran "critical valves and vacuum gauges" to use in its uranium enrichment program.
China denies all the allegations of its being involved in helping Iran developing its uranium enrichment program
The United States, however, should not only worry about China's relations with Iran, but also about the growing Chinese influence over Pakistan. While US-Pakistani relations are moving towards "a crunch time," the opposite is true of Sino-Pakistani relations. "Our relations are higher than Himalayas, deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey," said the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, Liu Jian, at a recent official reception. He then added that the Pakistan-China strategic partnership was a guarantee of peace and security for the region and that it helps the two nations to achieve economic stability and prosperity.
Beijing is supporting Pakistan by creating an area of political, economic and military influence in the very heart of Kashmir, an area disputed by India. China is involved in the construction of important projects in Pakistan, such as roads and a port, but the Chinese presence in the area a strongly indicated wider scope. According to the Pakistani-Kashmiri writer, Dr. Shabir Choudhry, China wants a bigger political role in South Asia: "China has emerged as a formidable economic and military power, and needs to find new markets, new sources of energy, and a new assertive role. In that context, China wants to ensure to have a greater say [...] in matters of Pakistan".
In pursuit of Pakistan's dream to "free" the "holy Muslim land" of Kashmir from India, the Government of Pakistan is trying to make China a part of the Kashmir dispute, and China seems more than willing to play a larger role in the politics of South Asia. Pakista, however, is willing to involve China not only in the Kashmiri issue, but also – and even primarily -- in Afghanistan. On April 20, the Pakistani daily The Nation, under the title of "Pak-China joint bid only solution to Afghan imbroglio," reported the statement of a high-ranking Chinese official who said that he was of the view that "The Afghans have the right to rule and it is the fundamental responsibility of the world community to extend full support to them, and China for its part would provide the required support and assistance towards this goal."
Iran in Afghanistan
Just because China says it intends to become the new regional "peace maker" in Afghanistan, we have no reason to heave a sigh of relief. Dr. Shabir Choudhry writes: "In the past, danger to these areas and the Indian Subcontinent was from the Russians; now that danger is from China. It is unfortunate that this time the government of Pakistan is very keen to provide a helping hand to the Chinese to have a foothold in this region, which could be extremely disastrous to South Asia. The Pakistani government is playing this dangerous game, as they face instability and a bleak future."
The reason why Pakistan is providing a "helping hand" to China is because the two countries share the same wish in Afghanistan: to limit the presence of a mutual rival, India.
India and China are rivals for world markets and resources, whereas Pakistan and India are arch-rivals disputing lands ever since their partition in 1947. The Chinese media recently reported that India is 'likely to resume its nuclear tests," adding that, "In the conditioning of India, equipped with nuclear weapons, it would boost confidence in dealing with Pakistan and pluck up courage to counteract China whom it has long taken as 'a slumbering threat' at its bedside." The editorial further stated that the international situation appeared to favor India, and that the unrest in the Arab world was taking attention away from the Indian sub-continent. "And perhaps, once the Middle East situation is further exacerbatesd, the US would risk helping India become a nuclear-weapon state. Considering this, India is likely to resume its nuclear tests. For this, China and all the neighbors should sharpen their vigilance over India's every maneuver."
Pakistan needs China as a partner to stop any Indian influence over Afghanistan and eventually to restrain a US influence as well. For Pakistan and China to have a hand on Afghanistan means to able to exploit resources in the country. Afghanistan is actually rich in copper, iron, rare earth minerals, oil and gas. It is also reported that there are projects for a pipeline going through Afghanistan connecting the oil and gas fields of Central Asia to ports on the Arabian Sea.
The Hong Kong-based media outlet Asia Times reports that "China obtained mining licenses [in Afghanistan] by delivering a sum of money to the appropriate persons in Kabul, and then set to work. It extracts huge amounts of ore then transports them south -- with little if any difficulty from the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other insurgent bands that roam the area. Evidently, Pakistan, the insurgent groups and China have already reached a working arrangement, which, though preliminary, augurs well for all parties." Pakistan's alliance with China in Afghanistan reveals again the core of Pakistani ambiguity and how an unreliable partner Islamabad has been and can be for the US in the war against terrorism.
Iran is supporting Pakistan and China in conquering Afghanistan. Each of the three countries wants to exploit Afghan resources and to expel the US and its allies (including India) from Afghanistan. As reported by the Asia Times: "Iran shares the same economic and geopolitical interests as Pakistan and China. Hurt by US-led sanctions, it seeks greater trade opportunities and geopolitical support. […] Though hostile to the Taliban, Iran has some influence with them. Its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps provides a limited amount of weaponry to insurgents [in Afghanistan in order to fight US troops] and trains them at a base near Zahedan in southeastern Iran, not far from the Afghan border".
Prof. Yuan-Kang Wang, in his book Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics, writes that "China's growing power has the potential to challenge existing American policy as well as the current configuration of power in Asia." In the view of Samuel Huntington, who wrote The Clash of Civilizations, China's goal is to reassert itself as the regional hegemonic power. In this sense, Islamic countries, such as Iran and Pakistan, can be potential allies to China with the goal of face a common enemy: the West.