Records show that Iran’s policy of regional expansion through the Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) which is indirectly funded by China’s increasing economic support is undermining Beijing’s larger and more important economic interests in the region.
Much has been made of China and Iran’s 25-year strategic deal and the growing military ties between the two countries, most recently evidenced by last month’s high-profile visit by Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to Tehran.
But while both sides tout the benefits of the growing relationship, evidence suggests the costs to China are growing larger.
Regardless, many observers are asking where all this Chinese money is going in Iran, especially as Iranians are suffering from growing poverty, unemployment, inflation and desperation.
Iranians point to corrupt Iranian officials pocketing some of the oil profits, but expanding Chinese assistance to Iran is also providing direct support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Houthi militants in Yemen, whom the IRGC backs, have been launching Iranian-made missiles and drones, “wreaking havoc on China’s arguably more important Comprehensive Strategic Partners: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)”, the report said.
The Houthis in March fired drones and missiles at 16 targets in Saudi Arabia, hitting Aramco’s petroleum product distribution station in Jeddah and causing a fire in two storage tanks.
This is the same company that came under a twin attack blamed on Iran in September 2019, forcing China to pay an additional $97 million per day as Brent crude prices rose to their highest level on record.
Also in March, the Houthis launched a wave of cross-border drone and missile attacks at civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia.
They used Iranian cruise missiles to attack a desalination plant in al-Shuqaiq and an Aramco petroleum distribution plant in Jizan.
The Arab coalition destroyed two boat drones off the coast of al-Hodeidah, which the Houthis were reportedly planning to use in attacks on oil tankers crossing the Bab al-Mandeb strait.
Earlier this year, the Houthis launched three separate attacks on the UAE, after suffering a series of defeats on the ground in Yemen.
Iraq, the top beneficiary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2021, with $10.5 billion in funding, has also been targeted by drone attacks blamed on Iran-backed Iraqi militias.