The Complex Dance: China, Iran, and the Houthi Attacks

Efforts by the US and British forces to curb Houthi attacks have been futile, leading to Washington seeking Chinese intervention. While China has potential leverage over Iran due to oil purchases and investment possibilities, it has been reluctant to employ it for various reasons.

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Courtesy: Reuters

In recent times, the Houthi attacks in support of Palestinians in Gaza have not only disrupted a vital trade route but also escalated tensions between China, Iran, and the rest of the world. As the Red Sea becomes a focal point for geopolitical maneuvering, the dynamics of the China-Iran relationship are thrust into the spotlight.

China's Dominance in Trade

The trade relationship between China and Iran has been robust but uneven. Chinese oil refiners purchased over 90% of Iran's crude exports last year, taking advantage of US sanctions that deterred other buyers. However, Iran's oil constitutes only 10% of China's crude imports, giving Beijing room to diversify its sources.

Chinese Concerns and Tehran's Alliances

China, being Iran's largest trading partner, has expressed its disappointment with the Houthi attacks. However, Iran's intricate web of regional alliances, including proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen, plays a pivotal role in Tehran's decision-making process.

US Involvement and Chinese Leverage

Efforts by the US and British forces to curb Houthi attacks have been futile, leading to Washington seeking Chinese intervention. While China has potential leverage over Iran due to oil purchases and investment possibilities, it has been reluctant to employ it for various reasons.

Tehran's Dilemma and China's Priorities

Iran's rulers find themselves at a crossroads. While China holds significant influence, Tehran's decisions are shaped by a complex interplay of factors, including regional alliances, ideological considerations, and economic necessities. China, as the world's biggest trading nation, prioritizes stability in the Red Sea but refrains from publicly blaming the Houthis.

Stakes for Iran and China's Influence

The stakes are high for Iran as it relies on China for crucial investments in its oil sector. However, criticisms within Iran question the true value of the partnership, highlighting the need for a nuanced strategy considering China's influence and other geopolitical considerations.