By America’s midterm election day on Nov. 7, two US task forces, the USS Enterprise and the USS Iwo Jima, had been spirited out of Middle East waters and America’s naval, air and marine build-up against Iran from mid-October had melted away.
No one was more surprised – or relieved – than Tehran.
On voting day in the United States, US ambassador in Israel Richard Jones, speaking as “a senior American official,” expressed doubts that Israel would or could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. At a meeting with Israeli reporters, the ambassador said: “It would be significantly more complicated than the (1981) attack on the nuclear reactor in Iraq. The worst thing would be for you to try and not succeed.”
The US official’s warning-off signal to Israel and the breaking up of the US naval buildup were taken together in Tehran as meaning that President George W. Bush had twice drawn back in less than a month from exercising a military option – first against North Korea after its nuclear weapons test on October 9 and then against Iran for refusing to halt its enrichment program.
Washington was also seen as having lost faith since the Lebanon war in the ability of Israel’s political and military leaders to wage war on Iran and destroy its nuclear facilities.
Iranian clerics are therefore holding up the V sign.
Their radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his patron and mentor Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi and the Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Rahim Safavi are being patted on the head for maintaining correctly that Iran has nothing to fear from an American strike because Washington will pull back at the eleventh hour. These wild-eyed extremists are given the credit in Tehran for scaring the Americans off by the Big Prophet 2 maneuvers initiated by the Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf from the beginning of November.
Iranian self-confidence is further enhanced by its evolving strategic bond with China, which encompasses – but far transcends – their trade and energy ties.
The staggering scale of Chinese investments and handouts for buying influence around the world is forcing countries on all five continents to factor Beijing into their international relationships.
China has announced a $100 billion investment in Iran as in other regions, particularly the five Central Asian Republics, where it has outspent Russia in their contest for influence. Beijing has bought itself exploration rights for most of the area of Kazakhstan and built a 1,000 km pipeline to carry oil to the Xinjiang province of China.
China is now the biggest buyer of Iran’s oil. Its investment spread over 25 years is less than the total value of their deals for the import of 100 million tons of Iranian LPG and 150,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil. Iran has gained access to the old Silk Road to Beijing.
The Chinese-African Cooperation Forum Summit of 48 African leaders which took place in Beijing this week strengthened and deepened Chinese influence in that continent by “charting a roadmap of cooperation for the 2007-2009 period.”
China and Africa also agreed “to join hands to support the role of the United Nations in international affairs.”
The relations are as much regional as bilateral, with room for China’s strategic partner Iran to thrive.
Chinese president Hu Jintao has embarked on a course of international domination by setting up a world bloc that follows the lines of the old non-aligned movement, is equally anti-American and assigns the United Nations a central role in international affairs as against American unilateralism. On this stage, China and Iran have cast themselves in lead roles.