By Mohammad Ali Saki

Iran-China agreement undermines U.S. leverages against Iran: Lebanese expert

May 2, 2021 - 15:28

TEHRAN - Ali Yahia, a Lebanese consultant in international relations, says that the Iran-China partnership pact would undermine U.S. efforts to put more pressure on Iran through sanctions.

"The Iran-China framework agreement undermines U.S. efforts and provides additional leverage to Tehran concerning sanction, which incidentally became less effective with a pivot eastward," Ali Yahia tells the Tehran Times.
"Threatened by the cooperation between great powers Russia, China, and Iran, Washington is continually concerned about the potential military, economic, and political power wielded by such an alliance," he emphasizes.
After Biden's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, many observers predict that regional powers like Iran, besides superpowers like China, are ready to fill the gap in the region. 

Q:  What is your comment on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

A: After 20 years, the United States and NATO made the joint decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, a country that has become known as "the cemetery of empires."
America's military withdrawal, scheduled to begin in May with a military exit by the 20th anniversary of September 11, is a continuation of the path initiated by the Trump administration and fulfillment of Biden's campaign promise to end the longest war ever fought by the United States. 

According to the "Interim Strategic Guide for National Security" report published recently by the White House, leaving Afghanistan will end the "eternal war that cost thousands of lives and wasted trillions of dollars"; this war which resulted in the depletion of U.S. forces without any comprehensive and successful strategy to develop a sustainable, comprehensive political solution.

However, the U.S. military will not simply leave the region. Instead, it plans to withdraw troops and relocate them to East Asia to continue to monitor Afghanistan and focus on its biggest strategic challenge, China.

The United States will also maintain its commitment to stand by its existing commitments in political, security, and economic spheres.

Although some liken the possibility of the Taliban's control of Kabul to a military dilemma, this is unlikely due to the presence of 350,000 soldiers, most of whom belong to the former Northern Alliance; Further, there certainly exist 'lessons learned from Afghanistan's civil war (89-92) that are applicable in country's current political, military and economic situation; even most of the Taliban leadership are becoming more receptive to political participation.

"Threatened by the cooperation between great powers Russia, China, and Iran, Washington is continually concerned about the potential military, economic, and political power wielded by such an alliance," the Lebanese expert says.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q:  How can U.S. rivals use the opportunity of U.S. exit from Afghanistan?

A: There is no doubt that the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan will leave a strategic vacuum that will be filled by the forces that have worked for years to undermine America's influence in this country. The Taliban, which built its support base even outside of Pashtun nationalism and became more pragmatic due to the experiences of previous decades, will clearly seek to fill this leadership void. China will, of course, try to enter the Afghan arena through Pakistan - its ally on the Silk Road, and Russia, which will try to exploit America's exit. Iran, which shares 921 km of its borders with Afghanistan, is yet another player vying for influence in the country. Given its existing political, cultural, and economic impact combined with the fact that Farsi is the common language spoken between Afghan ethnics groups, it is undoubtedly advantageous to Iran. As a result, Tehran will likely increase its exports and development projects inside Afghanistan. In addition to Pakistan, these three countries will have the opportunity to build a regional security network for the neighboring Afghan countries.

Q: How do you assess the relations between the U.S. and Arab states of the Persian Gulf in Biden's presidency?

A: The U.S. will honor its commitment to the strategic alliance with the (Persian) Gulf states while pivoting away from the Trump administration's policies under the direction of the Biden administration. It has signaled as much in its refocusing of policy to address human rights concerns. 

The February 2021 release and publication of the U.S. DNI report, "Assessing the Saudi Government's Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi," signals such a shift. Also, in February, the administration announced an end to aid Saudi-led forces in Yemen. Given Washington's tendency to work to cool global hot spots of some (Persian) Gulf countries in the context of a policy of strategic cooling of disputes and tensions with Iran and the war in Yemen, which appeared through the Saudi-Iranian dialogue via Baghdad, and through the Saudi crown prince's recent interview, in which he called for dialogue with Iran and the Houthis in Yemen

Q: How do you assess the Iran-China 25-year partnership pact? Why is the U.S. worried about this pact?

A: Since World War II, America's primary goal has been to prevent the formation of a Eurasian space. Threatened by the cooperation between great powers Russia, China, and Iran, Washington is continually concerned about the potential military, economic, and political power wielded by such an alliance. Hence the Obama administration's previous efforts to neutralize Iran through the 2011 nuclear deal – effectively creating, with Afghanistan, a geographical barrier to China.

The January appointment of Robert Malley as Special Envoy for Iran and preparations for the return to the nuclear agreement is only a prelude to the Biden administration's efforts to neutralize Iran in the context of the U.S. repositioning against Russia and China. The Iran-China framework agreement undermines U.S. efforts and provides additional leverage to Tehran concerning sanctions, which incidentally became less effective with a pivot eastward. Consequently, the ceiling of Iranian demands will be higher.

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