Neocons' nightmare: A Chinese military base in Iran?
Edward M. Gomez – SFGate.com January 30, 2008
It's the Bush neoconservatives' worst nightmare: Now that their man has failed in everything he has touched, from the costly boondoggle of an illegal war in Iraq and an aimless war in Afghanistan, not to mention disaster-relief services (the Hurricane Katrina fiasco), economic policy (where will the up-to-its-neck-in-debt administration find the $150 billion it's proposing to help boost the ailing economy?) and all-around diplomacy, here comes the news that China might want to set up a military base in Iran, one of the points on Bush's infamous, international "axis of evil."
But first: Today, a study led by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and retired Marine Corps General James Jones will be released; it will note that, with the resurgence of the Taliban, "Afghanistan stands at a crossroads" and runs a serious risk of becoming a so-called failed state. (BBC)
Alas, the Bush-Republican neocons were just too cowardly to sign up for America's all-volunteer armed services and go fight the war in Iraq they cheered on from the comfort of their armchairs, and which, in their dreams, would have changed the world's geopolitical map forever, consolidating Uncle Sam's global hegemony for eternity. Now, though, the neocons must swallow the hard facts that the U.S. is deeply in debt to China, with its armed forces stretched to the breaking point, and its economy sliding into a dangerous recession. War-lovin' conservatives who have been lusting to attack Iran also must admit that Bush might not have the resources - or the necessary support - to undertake that belligerent folly.
About that proposed Chinese base in Iran: The governments in Beijing and Tehran have become rather chummy. The state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reports that Iran now supplies 13 percent of the crude oil China is mopping up to fuel its booming industrial sector. Iran's ambassador to China this week cited America's current woes and boldly invoked the late Chinese revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong, who once famously referred to U.S. power as that of a "paper tiger." Perhaps more ominous for Washington's Iran-watchers is IRNA's news that the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intends to expand its cooperation with China in its construction of nuclear-power plants.
Today, in the port city of Bushehr, in southern Iran, "where the country's first nuclear-power plant [is] being built with the assistance of Russia," Ahmadinejad addressed a large gathering of his countrymen. He said: "You [Western governments] are making mistakes if you think [the] Iranian people will back down....[T]he people will not retreat one inch over their rights....We are moving towards the peak over the nuclear road...and the nuclear issue is finishing in our favor because of...God's help and [the] people's resistance...." (Xinhua, China)
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (1994), penned a news-analysis piece that appeared in yesterday's Asia Times (Hong Kong). In it, he observed that, following George W. Bush's recent junket to the Persian Gulf, which coincided with a similar trip by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that "culminat[ed] in a deal with the United Arab Emirates...for a small French base, Iran's security calculus has changed. It has almost reached the point of Tehran considering the option of reciprocating the perceived excess Western intrusion into its vicinity by allowing a military base for China at one of Iran's Persian Gulf ports or on one of its islands."
Afrasiabi added: "[T]his would be a significant geopolitical move on both Iran's and China's part, bound to unsettle the U.S. superpower that enjoys unrivaled hegemony in the oil region and which has unsettled China with its recent civilian nuclear agreement with India, [which has been] widely interpreted as a long-term 'containing China' initiative. In the tight interplay of geopolitics and geoeconomics, with China heavily dependent on energy imports from Iran and other Persian Gulf states, the trend is definitely toward China's naval complement of its flurry of energy deals in order to secure its precious oil and [liquefied-]gas cargo ships exiting through the narrow corridors of the Strait of Hormuz."
Edward M. Gomez, a former U.S. diplomat and staff reporter at TIME, has lived and worked in the U.S. and overseas, and speaks several languages. He has written for The New York Times, the Japan Times and the International Herald Tribune.http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=15&entry_id=23845
Last updated 02/02/2008