In a sidebar during last week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao urged Iran to play nice in next month’s round of nuclear talks. This time, the West and China hope to avoid the runaround Iran gave everyone in last month’s flop negotiations.BBC reports:
According to Xinhua news agency Mr Hu urged the Iranian president to co-operate with the UN’s nuclear watchdog.“China hopes Iran can take a flexible and pragmatic approach, have serious talks with all the six related nations and enhance dialogue and cooperation with the IAEA to ensure tensions are eased,” Xinhua quoted Hu Jintao as telling his Iranian counterpart.
Note China’s developing approach toward the Iranian nuclear question: In 2009, when the Iranian Green Movement was in full throttle and threatened revolution, China wasn’t shy about its support for the Islamic Republic. Since then, it continues to oppose sanctions, given its spot as top buyer of Iranian oil.But while the Chinese don’t mind seeing Iran frustrate the West’s aspirations to global leadership, these days they think the mullahs are overreaching in their intransigent quest for the Bomb. Ultimately, Beijing and the United States want the same thing: healthy oil trade in the Middle East. The more Iran lies to the IAEA and avoids negotiations, the more spikes in oil prices threaten Chinese jobs and therefore China’s political stability.China and Russia have been moving in lockstep at the Security Council on Iran (and Syria) policy, but their interests don’t align. Russia is happy with a long-running confrontation that keeps the price of oil high; keeps Iran in the weapons market; and keeps the United States endlessly mired in a UN process that has it constantly asking Russia for help. China is happy to see the US bogged down and harassed, but otherwise it wants a quiet life.So when Hu tells Iran to play nice and make a deal, he probably means it. With Putin, one can’t be so sure.