Biden can no longer ignore growing Iran-China ties

Washington may be tired of the Middle East, but Beijing is just getting started.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will visit China on Friday to deepen the “comprehensive strategic partnership” the two countries signed last year. Growing Sino-Iranian security cooperation represents a serious threat to core U.S., Israeli, and Gulf Arab security interests. To address them, the Biden administration needs to take several urgent steps now.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin confirmed Tuesday that Amir-Abdollahian will visit China on Friday, reiterating that “China is ready to work with Iran to further deepen the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership.”

The 25-year strategic partnership, which Beijing and Tehran signed in March 2021, offers major benefits for two U.S. adversaries united in their opposition to the United States and to the rule of law. By building relations with Iran, China strengthens its foothold in the Middle East, undermines the United States, and further secures access to Iranian oil and other important commodities. For its part, Iran will get billions of dollars in Chinese energy and infrastructure investment, undercutting the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against the regime.

Much of Beijing and Tehran’s cooperation focuses on economic and diplomatic ties. Indeed, the Chinese- and Russian-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization decided unanimously last September to elevate Iran to full membership.

It would be a mistake, however, to miss the security implications of the Sino-Iranian relationship.

Sino-Iranian military cooperation is not a theoretical or future concern—it is already happening.