With China’s Blessing, Iran Grows in Power

Commentary Last year, in an attempt to strengthen economic, political, and military ties, Beijing and Tehran launched a 25-year cooperation deal. The two countries, both “victims” of U.S. sanctions, have become incredibly close. On a recent trip to Beijing, Tehran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, announced that the implementation of the highly ambitious agreement had officially begun. As the world becomes increasingly atomized and chaotic, with authoritarianism on the rise, and major global powers invading sovereign nations, this strategic alliance should concern all readers, especially those of whom reside in the United States. In November 2018, under then-President Donald Trump, the United States officially reinstated all sanctions against Iran. Six months later, the Trump administration threatened to sanction any country found to be purchasing oil from Tehran. Most countries listened. One country, however, chose not to, and still chooses not to. That country is China. According to a recent Reuters report, Beijing’s “purchases of Iranian oil have risen to record levels in recent months.” In fact, purchases now exceed “a 2017 peak when the trade was not subject to U.S. sanctions.” For the month of January, Chinese imports averaged more than 700,000 barrels per day. For some reason, as the Reuters piece noted, President Joe Biden “has so far chosen not to enforce the sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies.” Millions of Americans believe that Biden is weak on China. If the Reuters report is anything to go by, their beliefs appear to be extremely valid. Although Iran has been hit with a number of embargoes and economic sanctions, it has found ways of easing the financial pain. Its “medicine”? Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency favored by despots (and young men in basements) around the world. According to research carried out by the Elliptic, bitcoin mining allows, and continues to allow, the Iranians “to circumvent trade embargoes and earn hundreds of millions of dollars in crypto assets.” These crypto assets are then used “to purchase imports and bypass sanctions.”  Last year, the Iranian Presidential Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank closely associated with the Iranian government, published a rather telling report outlining the ways in which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could generate extra revenue for the country. Increasing mining efforts, according to the authors, could generate roughly $2 million a day in direct revenue. Yes, that’s more than $700 million annually. As I previously discussed, another problematic country that has benefitted from bitcoin is North Korea. Last year alone, hackers in the Hermit Kingdom stole close to $400 million in cryptocurrencies. As I write this, the Russians, watching in horror as the ruble tumbles in value, also appear to be benefitting from bitcoin. Couple the Iranian regime’s use of bitcoin with its willingness to embrace the digital yuan, China’s new digital currency, and you have a recipe for genuine danger. A digital yuan clearly allows some countries—the likes of Russia, North Korea and, of course, Iran—to avoid U.S. sanctions. At the same time, the digital yuan helps the Chinese regime in its quest to dethrone the U.S. dollar. A sign for China’s new digital currency, electronic Chinese yuan (e-CNY) is displayed at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China, on March 8, 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images) Again, there is ample reason for concern. In 2020, Neha Narula, a digital currency researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), described a simulation carried out by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, a simulation that Narula was part of. As CNBC reported at the time, “One of the situations involved North Korea developing a missile that had the capability to reach the U.S.” In the simulation, the missile development “was funded by the digital yuan which allowed North Korea to bypass the global banking system and U.S. sanctions.” In the words of Narula, the results of the simulation made “it really clear that this (development of digital yuan) is a national security concern.” Narula is right. The Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the United States Institute of Peace, already has the largest and “most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East.” Moreover, it’s “the only country to develop a 2,000-km missile without first having a nuclear weapons capability.” A quarterly report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last November put Iran’s nuclear “breakout time” at somewhere between three to six weeks. “Breakout time” refers to the time required for the Iranian regime to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon. Weaponization, however, takes considerably longer; roughly two years, to be exact. In November of last year, around the very same time the IAEA’s report was published, Israel’s finance minister said the likelihood of Iran posse

With China’s Blessing, Iran Grows in Power

Commentary

Last year, in an attempt to strengthen economic, political, and military ties, Beijing and Tehran launched a 25-year cooperation deal. The two countries, both “victims” of U.S. sanctions, have become incredibly close.

On a recent trip to Beijing, Tehran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, announced that the implementation of the highly ambitious agreement had officially begun. As the world becomes increasingly atomized and chaotic, with authoritarianism on the rise, and major global powers invading sovereign nations, this strategic alliance should concern all readers, especially those of whom reside in the United States.

In November 2018, under then-President Donald Trump, the United States officially reinstated all sanctions against Iran. Six months later, the Trump administration threatened to sanction any country found to be purchasing oil from Tehran. Most countries listened. One country, however, chose not to, and still chooses not to. That country is China.

According to a recent Reuters report, Beijing’s “purchases of Iranian oil have risen to record levels in recent months.” In fact, purchases now exceed “a 2017 peak when the trade was not subject to U.S. sanctions.” For the month of January, Chinese imports averaged more than 700,000 barrels per day.

For some reason, as the Reuters piece noted, President Joe Biden “has so far chosen not to enforce the sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies.” Millions of Americans believe that Biden is weak on China. If the Reuters report is anything to go by, their beliefs appear to be extremely valid.

Although Iran has been hit with a number of embargoes and economic sanctions, it has found ways of easing the financial pain. Its “medicine”? Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency favored by despots (and young men in basements) around the world.

According to research carried out by the Elliptic, bitcoin mining allows, and continues to allow, the Iranians “to circumvent trade embargoes and earn hundreds of millions of dollars in crypto assets.” These crypto assets are then used “to purchase imports and bypass sanctions.” 

Last year, the Iranian Presidential Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank closely associated with the Iranian government, published a rather telling report outlining the ways in which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could generate extra revenue for the country. Increasing mining efforts, according to the authors, could generate roughly $2 million a day in direct revenue. Yes, that’s more than $700 million annually.

As I previously discussed, another problematic country that has benefitted from bitcoin is North Korea. Last year alone, hackers in the Hermit Kingdom stole close to $400 million in cryptocurrencies.

As I write this, the Russians, watching in horror as the ruble tumbles in value, also appear to be benefitting from bitcoin. Couple the Iranian regime’s use of bitcoin with its willingness to embrace the digital yuan, China’s new digital currency, and you have a recipe for genuine danger.

A digital yuan clearly allows some countries—the likes of Russia, North Korea and, of course, Iran—to avoid U.S. sanctions. At the same time, the digital yuan helps the Chinese regime in its quest to dethrone the U.S. dollar.

Epoch Times Photo
A sign for China’s new digital currency, electronic Chinese yuan (e-CNY) is displayed at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China, on March 8, 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Again, there is ample reason for concern. In 2020, Neha Narula, a digital currency researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), described a simulation carried out by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, a simulation that Narula was part of.

As CNBC reported at the time, “One of the situations involved North Korea developing a missile that had the capability to reach the U.S.” In the simulation, the missile development “was funded by the digital yuan which allowed North Korea to bypass the global banking system and U.S. sanctions.”

In the words of Narula, the results of the simulation made “it really clear that this (development of digital yuan) is a national security concern.”

Narula is right. The Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the United States Institute of Peace, already has the largest and “most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East.” Moreover, it’s “the only country to develop a 2,000-km missile without first having a nuclear weapons capability.”

A quarterly report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last November put Iran’s nuclear “breakout time” at somewhere between three to six weeks. “Breakout time” refers to the time required for the Iranian regime to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon. Weaponization, however, takes considerably longer; roughly two years, to be exact.

In November of last year, around the very same time the IAEA’s report was published, Israel’s finance minister said the likelihood of Iran possessing nuclear weapons by 2026 was quite high. Whether the “nukes” arrive in 2024, 2026, or 2028, they are coming. Very few things in life are guaranteed. But the Iranian regime possessing nuclear weapons is a virtual certainty.

Like communist China, its close ally and primary enabler, Iran is an incredibly dangerous country. With the backing of the Chinese regime, both financially and politically, Iran looks likely to become even more dangerous.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.