Photo Credit: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Lau
The guided missile destroyer USS Carney defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles during operations in the Red Sea, Oct. 19, 2023.

According to a Reuters report on Friday, citing five sources, Chinese authorities have urged Iranian officials to collaborate in curbing assaults on vessels in the Red Sea by the Houthis, who are supported by Iran. Beijing stressed that failure to address this issue could potentially jeopardize business relations between the two nations.

Late Monday night, US and UK forces with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands attacked eight Houthi targets in Yemen. The Pentagon stated that the strikes “are intended to degrade Houthi capability to continue their reckless and unlawful attacks on US and UK ships as well as international commercial shipping in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.”


Iranian sources told Reuters that Chinese officials warned Tehran in several recent trade meetings between the two countries that it must curb its client, the Houthi militia.

“Basically, China says: ‘If our interests are harmed in any way, it will impact our business with Tehran. So tell the Houthis to show restraint,” an Iranian source told Reuters.

The Financial Times on Wednesday cited American officials who said the US had requested China’s assistance in urging Tehran to restrain the Houthi rebels who are attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, however, there was little indication at the time of help from Beijing.

Over the past three months, US officials have consistently raised the issue with top Chinese officials, seeking their cooperation in warning Iran against escalating tensions in the Middle East following the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, deputy Jon Finer, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the matter in meetings with Liu Jianchao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s international department, in Washington this month.


How much leverage does China have over Iran? Suffice it to say that based on tanker tracking by data and analytics provider Kpler, China purchases 90% of Iran’s crude oil, to be refined by Chinese outfits – at a time when the US is maintaining strict sanctions against buying Iranian oil. Meanwhile, that’s only 10% of China’s crude oil consumption, so Beijing could easily cover the Iranian supply from other sources should it decide to teach the Ayatollahs a lesson in getting along with others.

China’s Foreign Ministry responded to a Reuters inquiry, stating: “China is a sincere friend of the countries of the Middle East and is committed to promoting regional security and stability and seeking common development and prosperity.”


Speaking of friends, According to China Briefing, China has boosted its average annual investment in Israel from $20 million in 2002 to more than $200 million in 2022.

Data from the Institute of National Security Studies shows that China’s investments in Israel were overwhelmingly focused on the technology sector (449 deals with a reported value of some $9.14 billion as of 2019).

But wait, there’s more: eight deals were closed in the infrastructure sector at a total value of $5.91 billion, including four deals in transportation, two in the ports, and two in the electricity sector. Another deal was closed in agriculture and real estate (the acquisition of Tnuva), one in the minerals sector (the acquisition of Adama), two deals involved investments in academic institutions (the Technion and Tel Aviv University), and one was in advertising (the acquisition of Bagir).


Finally, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on Thursday that the Houthis are still at it. Tasnim reported that “Yemen’s Armed Forces launched ballistic missiles against American warships in the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab Strait, expressing support for Palestinians in Gaza facing a genocidal war launched by Israel with the United States’ support.”

This may be a good time to bid on really cheap Iranian crude.

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