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ON THE HILL

Senators raise concerns about deepening Iran-China ties

Sens. Bill Hagerty and Chris Van Hollen told JI yesterday that they’re alarmed by efforts to strengthen connections between Beijing and Tehran

Photo by Presidency of Iran / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (L) being welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) with an official ceremony in Beijing, China on February 14, 2023.

As Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Chinese President Xi Jinping huddle in Beijing, senators from both parties raised concerns about the deepening ties between the Islamic Republic and China.

Xi pledged yesterday that “China will unswervingly develop friendly cooperation with Iran no matter how international and regional situations change,” while Raisi said he’s seeking to expand economic and trade relations with China, which have faltered in recent years.

“It’s a matter of great concern,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) told Jewish Insider on Tuesday. “We see these authoritarian powers finding more and more common ground. I think it’s something that we should all be deeply concerned about.”

Hagerty cautioned that China may be “looking at ways to prop up the Iranian regime by financing them through oil purchases,” and said that deepening Chinese economic ties with Iran could make Beijing an accessory to Iran’s assistance to Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine.

China is the largest purchaser of Iranian oil and had, until recently, been the largest foreign investor in Iran. The two nations signed a 25-year strategic pact in 2020 that has yet to be implemented. Iran is seeking to improve its relations with China as it attempts to avoid Western sanctions.

“I’ve been very alarmed by the deepening relationship between Iran and China,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who was a prominent supporter of negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, told JI.

“We’re keeping more than an eye on it,” Van Hollen continued. “This started some time ago with their strategic cooperation agreement… I think this is one more reason why we need to make sure we strengthen our hand vis-a-vis China when it comes to global issues.”

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