China has been buying lots of oil from Iran in violation of sanctions

China has been buying lots of oil from Iran in violation of sanctions
Yan Yan/Xinhua via AP

In case you’ve been wondering why the negotiations in Vienna with Iran have been such a dismal failure, some new data from an international watchdog group should shed some light on the matter. Yes, part of the reason has been the Biden administration’s stunning incompetence in managing the talks, but another key factor is the reality that Iran isn’t feeling as much pressure as had been predicted. We’ve long known that some countries have been quietly undermining the international sanctions on Iran, but in 2021, China seriously ramped up those efforts, importing vastly larger volumes of Iranian oil than they had received in previous years. The most current estimate suggests that they boosted Iranian oil imports by at least 40%. (Free Beacon)

Illicit Iranian oil shipments jumped by 40 percent in 2021, with China and Syria the top importers of this heavily sanctioned crude, according to figures published by a watchdog group that highlight the Biden administration’s lax enforcement of U.S. sanctions.

From 2020 to 2021—when the Biden administration began negotiations with Iran surrounding a revamped nuclear deal and began to unwind sanctions on the hardline regime—Iranian oil exports increased by 123 million barrels, or 40 percent, according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which closely tracks Tehran’s armada of illegal oil tankers.

China was by far the top importer, signaling a growing alliance between the two rogue regimes. Beijing took in a total of 310 million barrels of crude oil and gas condensates from January to September of last year, according to UANI.

Sanctions against rogue nations don’t work unless pretty much the entire international community agrees to them and enforces them. The Russians, the Chinese, and North Korea have all been buying oil from Iran, keeping the current regime fiscally solvent, but China is obviously the biggest transgressor by a large margin.

As the UANI report reveals, the total amount of Iranian oil imported by China exceeds the amount purchased by all other countries combined. The United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Venezuela were the next largest importers, along with Russia. That cash flow has largely blunted Iran’s previous deficit of funds, reducing pressure on the current regime to compromise. Some of the money has doubtless gone to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

What we’re witnessing is the new “axis of evil” in operation. This is a challenge that’s far larger than just the existing questions about Iran’s nuclear program. Russia and China are not behaving as responsible international actors. While the rest of the world attempts to unify against these bad actors, including other rogue states like North Korea and Venezuela, Russia and China actively support them. And that support largely renders the sanctions useless.

Why would the Iranian mullahs feel any pressure to cooperate in the negotiations or scale back their nuclear ambitions when they know they can get around the sanctions with a little help from their friends? The obvious answer is that they don’t and the collapse of the talks in Vienna is ample evidence of this. Unfortunately, if economic sanctions don’t get the job done, the only other eventual recourse will be military action of some sort. Then we’ll find out just how strong these new ties between Iran, Russia, and China truly are. If they are willing to defend Iran’s nuclear program militarily, the world will have become a vastly more dangerous place than it already was.

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