Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China

China is Iran’s largest trading partner, including oil and gas, along with billions of dollars in other products and services.

On Friday, President Xi Jinping arrived in Tehran, officially welcomed by Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

The visit was the first by a Chinese head of state in 14 years, Jiang Zemin the last one in 2002, early in the post-9/11 era, featuring endless US imperial wars, along with hostile anti-Russian/anti-Chinese policies.

Presidents Xi and Rohani seek closer ties, Xi signalizing a new chapter in bilateral relations. Iran’s IRNA news agency quoted him saying:

“China is seeking to improve bilateral ties with Iran to start a new chapter of comprehensive, long-term and sustainable relations with the Islamic Republic.”

Notably, Xi is the first head of state to visit Iran since international sanctions were lifted on January 16. Putin visited Tehran last November, discussing enhanced bilateral ties going forward.

Accompanying Xi on his visit were three deputy prime minister and six other ministers, along with a large delegation of Chinese business officials

He and Rohani signed 17 documents, involving mutual cooperation in economic, commercial, industrial, transportation, environmental, cultural and judicial relations, including oil and gas, peaceful nuclear energy, financing a bullet train and banking, Xi saying:

“In this visit, we have struck an agreement on planning for 25-year-long strategic cooperation and are ready to develop and deepen cooperation in all the various cultural, educational, technological, military and security fields at the level of strategic partners.”

Xi criticized Western powers without naming them, saying they seek hegemonic rule – calling George Bush’s “you are either with us or against us” policy “jungle rule.”

Developing economies left Western ones “bereft of their monopolized power…pav(ing) the way for the practice of independent states’ policies.”

He stressed the eagerness of China to enhance ties and cooperation with Iran. Chinese Academy of Social Science Middle East expert Yin Gang called his visit historically significant, signaling enhanced bilateral relations.

“Iran is the place to prove China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy,” said Yin. Its potential is huge.

Renmin University Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies dean Wang Wen called Iran a hub along the “New Silk Road” route – giving China’s “one Belt, One Road” strategy “solid underpin(ning).”

According to Beijing Ministry of Commerce researcher Mei Xinyu, “Iran is one of the most important players in the region and a key Chinese partner in the Middle East. (It’s) vital for China’s strategies in West Africa and North Asia.”

Besides its huge energy needs vital to its economy, Iran’s large population (nearly 80 million) offers attractive potential for Chinese exports.

In 2014, bilateral trade exceeded $50, Iranian exports totaling $27.5 billion in energy and other products. Chinese oil imports from Iran account for around 12% of its domestic needs, likely increasing ahead with international sanctions lifted.

On Saturday, Xi met with Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khomenei. “Westerners have never obtained the trust of the Iranian nation,” he said.

“The government and nation of Iran have always sought expanding relations with independent and trustful countries like China.”

Tehran intends increasing ties with the “East.” He praised Beijing’s “independent” stance on global issues, saying “China has always stood by the side of the Iranian nation during hard days.”

America’s approach is “dishonest” on all geopolitical issues, he stressed. Closer Iranian Eastern ties makes it less vulnerable to US-led Western hostility.

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TEHRAN (FNA)- Sources revealed on Saturday that the Chinese delegation is unhappy with the recent visit to Riyadh after arrangements for a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef and President Xi Jinping failed.
Being concerned about operation of the terrorist groups in the region, the Chinese president was interested in holding a meeting with the Saudi crown prince – who is also in charge of the country’s domestic security as interior minister – but arrangements for the meeting failed, a source said today.

During the first day of his visit to Riyadh on January 19, President Xi met with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman who is also Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister.

President Xi Jinping also met Saudi King Salman in Riyadh and then inaugurated a joint-venture refinery in Yanbu Industrial City on the Red Sea on Wednesday.

The source said arrangements for the meeting with the crown prince failed due to internal differences and rivalries between Mohammed bin Nayef and his deputy Mohammad bin Salman who is the King’s son and has high aspirations to topple the Crown prince to replace him.

Tough rivalries in the Royal family have always been underway in Riyadh in the last few years, but princes are now showing teeth to each other as the health conditions of the ailing King is reportedly deteriorating.

Sources in Riyadh revealed last year that a large number of princes were readying a coup to topple the king and his son – the deputy crown prince – in protest at the Saudi foreign policy that is pushing the country into bankruptcy.

Yet, the worst type of rivalries are seen between the crown prince and his deputy.

A prominent Saudi media activist revealed on Tuesday that the crown prince has held secret talks with the country’s tribal leaders to heighten internal conflicts and prevent empowerment of Mohammed bin Salman.

“After news reports said that the Saudi king has decided to leave the power to his son, the Saudi crown prince has held some meetings with the tribal leaders to destabilize domestic conditions in Saudi Arabia,” the activist who called for anonymity for security reasons told FNA.

Noting that the details of these meetings are not known, he said it seems that Mohammed bin Nayef sees himself entitled to the throne, and he, thus, seeks to spark internal problems and insecurity with the help of certain tribes to stir crisis and prevent the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman from ascending to the throne.

Reports in August had informed that the Saudi crown prince had enhanced security arrangements for fear of assassination plots of rival princes in the royal family.

“Mohammed bin Nayef has changed the venues of his daily tasks, procedures and itinerary of his visits and appointments, his team of bodyguards and their methods to decrease the danger to minimum levels,” Mujtahid, a well-known source in the royal family, wrote in his tweets.

Mujtahid is a Saudi political activist who is believed to be a member of or have a well-connected source in the royal family.

Noting that the Saudi crown prince uses helicopter flights for most of his visits to different places, he said, “Tens of armed vehicles and over 80 security forces always accompany him during his visits.”

Mujtahid said that Mohamed bin Nayef rarely stays in his palaces and uses his father’s palace on an island in the Red Sea behind fortified security measures and large numbers of security forces there.

He also spends a lot of time to eavesdrop the phone calls of the ruling family members, the Saudi activist revealed.

On April 29, King Salman relieved Muqrin of his duties as crown prince and appointed his nephew, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as the new heir apparent.

It is the first time that a grandson of the founder of the country (Ibn Saud), rather than a son, has been appointed crown prince.

Mohamed bin Nayef, 55, the grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia, was appointed as crown prince and also minister of interior.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was also replaced by Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubair.

The changes signaled a major shift at the top of the ruling Al Saud family away from princes chosen by the late King Abdullah, who died in January 2015, and towards those close to the new monarch.

John Kerry of the USA said:

“We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we have ever had, and nothing has changed because we worked to eliminate a nuclear weapon with a country in the region,” he said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal.

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