News / Middle East

    Khamenei: Iran Never Trusted West, Seeks Closer Ties with China

    Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as they pose for a photograph in an official arrival ceremony, at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 23, 2016.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as they pose for a photograph in an official arrival ceremony, at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 23, 2016.

    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is calling for closer economic and security ties with China, saying Iran has "never trusted the West."

    Khamenei told Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting Saturday that Tehran was seeking to expand ties with "more independent countries" like China.

    Xi is the first head of state from the group of global powers that negotiated the historic nuclear deal with Iran to meet with Khamenei. The Chinese leader arrived in Iran late Friday on a tour of the Middle East.

    Prior to meeting with Khamenei on Saturday, he met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the president’s residence, where the two leaders oversaw the signing of 17 agreements aimed at expanding diplomatic and economic cooperation.

    The two countries also agreed to boost mutual trade.

    "Today, we discussed strategic relations between the two countries, regulating and signing a comprehensive 25-year document and also upgrading bilateral ties in the coming 10 years. We decided to increase mutual trade up to $600 billion,” Rouhani said.

    Strategic partnership

    Xi, who is making the first trip to Iran by a Chinese president in 14 years, said the two sides agreed to form a comprehensive strategic partnership.

    "We decided to turn mutual relations into relations that would turn into strategic relations, and also issues that joined us. A statement on both sides should also take this opportunity in order to further upgrade mutual exchanges at different levels and further boost the political trust between the two countries,” Xi said.

    China was a top consumer of Iranian oil even during the three years of international sanctions that targeted Iran’s nuclear program. Now that the sanctions are lifted and Iran is ramping up oil production, that relationship could grow further.

    China played a key role in international efforts to roll back sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran scaling back its nuclear program.

    Ahead of the visit, the U.S. said it hoped Beijing would continue to work with Washington to ensure Iran does not reconstitute its nuclear capabilities.

    Nuclear issue

    "We’re certainly not trying to stop [China’s] economic or diplomatic engagement with Iran. We would just hope that, just as China has played a very constructive role throughout this process, that China will continue to play that role in all of its engagement with the Iranian government,” said U.S. Ambassador Stephan Mull, lead coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation at the State Department.

    The U.S. and China are co-chairing a working group to oversee the new design of Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

    “We expect strong cooperation to continue as we all work together to ensure Iran’s continued compliance with the [nuclear agreement],” Anna Richey-Allen, a spokeswoman from the State Department’s East Asia and Pacific Bureau, said Friday.

    Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

    China is among the world powers that reached the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with Iran last July. In that nuclear pact, Tehran pledged to scale back its uranium-enriching activities and submit to inspection, in exchange for lifting sanctions.

    FILE - Unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians cut the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at Natanz facility, 322 kilometers from Tehran, Iran, Jan. 20, 2014.
    FILE - Unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians cut the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at Natanz facility, 322 kilometers from Tehran, Iran, Jan. 20, 2014.

    In an op-ed article appearing in an Iranian newspaper and quoted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Xi said: “China appreciates Iran's assurance of not intending to develop nuclear weapons, supports Iran in upholding its legitimate rights and interests, and fully recognizes Iran's contribution to the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

    China has been Iran’s biggest trading partner in the past six years, according to Xi. Bilateral trade in 2014 was around $52 billion, but dropped off last year because of falling oil prices, according to Iranian officials.

    Seeking a new international order

    But a key analyst says ties between the two counties go beyond economic benefits. Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said both countries share the goal of “reshaping the international order in a way that excludes us more.”

    Singh, who served as senior director of Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council from 2005 to 2008, testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. He said that China “really sees Iran as its main strategic partner by virtue of its geographic location, by virtue of the fact that it's really the only major power in the region which isn't allied with the United States.”

    Chinese Xi’s visit to Iran came after a stop in Saudi Arabia earlier in the week during that country's heightened tensions with Iran.

    A State Department official told VOA the U.S. anticipates that “China will join us and others in encouraging all parties to avoid actions that escalate sectarian tensions in the region.”

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    by: Asian from: Home
    January 25, 2016 7:06 PM
    If only the Iranians could embrace their ancient religion once more...

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 24, 2016 1:09 PM
    Under the Shah Iran trusted the west. It was the Iraniac Islamic revolution that began by taking US diplomats hostage when the mistrust began. The US response was incredible in its weakness and stupidity. That was the moment the US should have started bombing Iran and promised to keep bombing until the hostages were released. That was a time when Iran was very weak and could have been occupied. The US and the rest of the civilized world including most Iranians have paid a terrible price ever since. The goal of the US should be eliminating the Iranian theocracy and replacing it with a truly democratic government. But if it must have a dictatorship, it should be one friendly to the US like the Shah was.

    by: Anonymous
    January 24, 2016 1:48 AM
    Actually, the people of Iran and the government of Iran are totally different from each other. the people think like west because of their glorious culture before Islam (the only country in middle east which keep their culture and literature from ancient time unlike Iraq and Egypt people who completely converted to Arabic) and also Iranian people had many efforts and fights to keep their Zoroastrian religion but the early Arab Muslim ,like Isis today, forced them to accept Islam. On the other hand the government of Iran try to eliminate their valuable culture, and create a extreme religious culture like the other countries did in the middle east.

    by: Jozjag
    January 23, 2016 10:28 PM
    Please tell me, who does trust the West?

    by: Phyto from: Saint Paul USA
    January 23, 2016 8:00 PM
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a huge hypocrite when he snuggles up to repressive governments that hold Muslims hostage and deny them religious and personal liberty. The Uyghurs from East Turkestan (Xinjiang) are one of the most oppressed peoples in China - so you can 'trust' China to continue their unlawful imprisonment, repression of religion and the continued degradation of their lands by immigration from the rest of China. Iran is no friend to Muslims and cannot be trusted to hold their interests above self-interest.

    by: enemy of the state
    January 23, 2016 6:39 PM
    It is interesting to see how China goes around the world doing business, filling any vacuum available, like in Africa, while USA goes around the world bombing, invading and wasting money on adventures, that are ultimately hurting the USA in the long run. USA leaders may think they are smart by playing 'chess'. Chinese leaders laugh at them understanding very well, that going after a king is not going to give anybody a long term hold of the territory. Their game is called '围棋', or 'Go', and it is certainly more applicable to a geopolitical game of thrones.

    by: Harry Dampsnatch from: Kansas, USA
    January 23, 2016 5:55 PM
    We never thought highly of the Iranians either. But we are trying.

    The thing is, some, not all, of the Iranian people, do like the Western world a bit more than the middle ages lifestyle they get from the local gentry. These are the people we try to support and cultivate, while smashing the living crap out of the crazies in the neighborhood.

    by: Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland, IN
    January 23, 2016 5:42 PM
    The funny thing is that the US is losing influence not because other nations have become strong, but because the US has become so vile and disgusting that most nations of the world would rather deal with Chinese communists than supposed US free market capitalists. To think that the Chinese are better trusted than anyone from the US government shows how far as a nation we continue to fall. The problems are so obvious but the elite have no intention on fixing them. The fact is US politicians profit from the very problems they create.

    by: BayAreaSportsFan
    January 23, 2016 5:39 PM
    The area we now call iran may be populated with descendants of persia, the government is the e,act opposite. They are now religious fanatics. They are the other side of the coin from israel. Ancient persia was an open land with freedom of religion and a diverse culture. The Islamic government has no historical relevence. Iran hates us because we killed their leader and installed a puppet dictator. Would you hate a country that kills our president and installs it's own government in place?

    by: Les from: Australia
    January 23, 2016 5:37 PM
    No one in their right mind could possibly condemn Iran for not trusting the "west"
    As we know the "west" is that group led by the USA.
    And after what they did in Iran, trust was killed long ago.
    For Iran to ally itself with China, another country the U S is trying to dictate to and push around is logical, beneficial and one could say essential.
    Good on them, very good to see.
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