Iran looks to China as US sanctions bite

Iran looks to China as US sanctions bite

Tehran readies tactical shift with 25-year plan to become ‘strategic partners’ with Beijing

Inscribed on the blue tiles above the entrance to Iran’s foreign ministry in downtown Tehran is the ideological motto that has informed its foreign policy since the 1979 revolution: “Neither East, Nor West; [only] the Islamic Republic”.

But in what appears to be a tactical shift for a theocratic state under pressure from US sanctions and hopeful for better relations with other states, Iran’s leaders are working on a “comprehensive” 25-year plan to become “important strategic partners” with China.

A proposal approved by the Iranian cabinet in June and yet to be put to Beijing reflects the regime’s attempt to better position itself and its economy in the face of US sanctions and what it sees as limited European efforts to save the 2015 nuclear deal, say analysts. That deal – under which Tehran agreed to abide by limits on its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief – has faltered since the US abandoned it in 2018.

For Iran’s conservative forces — who are hostile to the west — China and Russia offer a counterweight to historically strong business ties with Europe.

“Iran’s political message to western states is that Iran is not alone. [ It is like] shouting: ‘Hello! my daughter has an important suitor and is getting married’, in case they want to rush and do something to prevent it,” said a regime insider close to hardline forces.