Authored by Alastair Crooke via the Strategic Culture Foundation
As the US tries to consolidate its strategy for weakening and confronting Iran, the contours of an important geopolitical strategy, launched by Syria and Iran, are surfacing.
These states are unfolding a regional ‘Belt-and-Road’ trading area, stretching from Lattakia’s port on the Mediterranean (likely contracted out to Iranian management) across to the border with Pakistan (and perhaps ultimately to India, too).
What is so significant arising from Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq is that Iraq, whilst wanting to keep amicable relations with Washington, rejects to implement the US siege on Iran. It intends to trade – and to trade more – with Iran, Syria and Lebanon. One major strand to the agreement is to have a road and railway ‘belt’ linking all these states together, for trade.
But here is the bigger point: This regional ‘Belt and Road’ is to be unfolded right into the heart of the Chinese BRI project. Iran always has been envisaged as a – if not ‘the’ – key pivot to China’s BRI in the region. As China’s Minister of Commerce, Zhong Shan, underlined this week: “Iran is China’s strategic partner in the Middle-East and China is the biggest trade partner and importer of oil from Iran”. A senior Chinese expert on West Asia plainly has taken note: Rouhani’s visit has “long-term geopolitical implications” in terms of expansion of Iran’s regional influence.
And here is a second point: The unfolding of this ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, effectively marks the end of the Belt & Road members’ looking to Europe as a principal trading partner.