Beijing Chimes In On The Iran Nuclear Deal

The Chinese government publicly stated today its belief that events surrounding Iran’s nuclear program have reached a “critical point” and only the easing of US economic sanctions will end the present stalemate. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the statement just one day after Iran officially began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities. The Iranian move is intended to pressure European nations and the United States into ending the heavy economic sanctions now in place, and eventually restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The United States removed itself from that agreement, commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018. The US withdrawal from JCOPA, followed by the application of harsh economic sanctions, led to severe economic consequences for Iran.

With a new administration now in Washington, there’s been hope that the deal can be resurrected. So far, neither side has been willing to make the first move. Tehran is demanding that the sanctions be lifted before serious talks begin and the United States wants full compliance from Iran before any future move towards restarting the deal begin. This is the stalemate Wang Wenbin was referring to in his comments.

China has long favored a US return to the JCPOA as well as Iranian compliance. Salvaging the 2015 deal would serve Chinese interests in the region well. Beijing and Tehran are reportedly close to finalizing a 25 year trade and military agreement that will see China invest $400 billion into Iran’s communication, transport and infrastructure areas in exchange for a deeply discounted supply of Iranian oil. If these are actually the terms of the agreement then it’s in China’s interest to see the nuclear deal return to its original form. The problem is that the terms of the trade and military agreement between Iran and China have become something of an urban legend in the Middle East. The terms and conditions of the agreement might’ve been exaggerated quite significantly and not be the trojan horse that a good number of analysts and politicians have claimed.

Brexit’s Final Curtain Approaches

As 2020 draws to a close, the final curtain of the four and a half year long Brexit drama is now in sight. Great Britain will leave the European Union at 11:00 PM, 31 January, 2020. The largest unknown at the moment is whether or not the two sides complete a post-Brexit trade deal. Time is running out, as is patience as both sides struggle to get a deal in place before the end of the year. Deal or not, Britain is leaving the EU. With that said, it is in the interest of both parties to reach an agreement. Not doing so will bring the prospect of economic damage and border disruptions as a second wave of COVID-19 cases grips Europe.

Today, the European Parliament has set a Sunday deadline for negotiators to reach a post-Brexit trade deal. In light of the coming Christmas vacation, ratifying an agreement beyond Sunday will be difficult for the parliament. The chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said it will be “difficult but possible” to have a deal wrapped up by Friday. His view is certainly the minority opinion. Most other British and EU officials close to the negotiations, and were willing to speak off camera, believe a no-deal outcome is most probable.

Despite the cynicism of many diplomats and politicians, economic news has been largely positive today. European stocks and markets rose on hopes of a trade deal. The optimism was even found in currency markets where the pound and euro were trading strongly against the dollar. The solid economic performance is not likely to last for much longer unless a trade deal comes about. Should the year end without one, European markets will be the first to feel the pinch as yet another wave of uncertainty will arrive.