The recent arrest of Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou wasn’t really a surprise to those who are aware of the relationship between China and Iran.
How the heck does Meng’s arrest involved the Islamic Republic of Iran? Simple, really. China and Iran are buddies, both enemies or rivals of the United States. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
But let’s review a bit. Meng’s arrest was requested by the American government for, in essence, her alleged involvement in conspiring to violate international sanctions against Iran and allegedly involve Meng lying about shell companies, whose leaders were handpicked by Huawei, which then allegedly did business with Iran.
Some sanctions against Iran have recently been lifted after a European effort, but American sanctions remain, including those aimed at preventing the fundamentalist state from obtaining nuclear weapons, which likely wouldn’t be a good thing for the rest of the world. Some military experts feel the only reason Iran would need nuclear weapons is if a neighbour and rival, for example, Iraq, had similar weapons (India and Pakistan). But that’s not the case.
Apparently the case against Meng includes allegations that Huawei did or was intending to secretly sell prohibited technology to the Iranian government in contravention of one of more sanctions. This is a serious charge, regardless of the fact the Iranian government has always maintained it seeks nuclear or other prohibited technology only for peaceful purposes.
According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, “Ms. Meng is waiting for a court battle against extradition to the United States, which accuses her and the company of fraud to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran. Her defense will hinge in part on alleged political motives behind the U.S. charges against her, and partly on proving that she did nothing wrong under Canadian law.”
There’s a deeper concern too about the Chinese company’s actual goal in world communication. While the company states it’s just there to sell phones, the United States and some other nations around the world accuse Huawei of selling its technology complete with cyberspying “back doors,” meaning anyone who talks on Huawei technology is also sending their messages back to Beijing.
China has at least a positive relationship with Iran, if not a friendship. China enjoys Iranian petroleum: 80 per cent of imports from Iran are oil. Economic trade between the two began during the Cold War and only increased, estimated in 2005 at $9.2 billion. China also makes money off weapons deals with Iran. Therese Delpech stated in “ Iran and the Bomb: The Abdication of International Responsibility,” “On average, it is estimated that China made $171 million per year in arms exports to Iran since 1982.” China has given Iran aid and instruction in nuclear technology: China has supplied reactors to Iran and signed multiple nuclear agreements with Iran, including a secret one in 1990.
As Iran is commonly considered a threat to the West, a government that does that much to help Iran doesn’t really seem like a friend to the West either.
Setting moral concerns aside, one can’t blame China for allegedly getting into bed with Iran. The crippling sanctions mean Iran has few international friends, and Huawei allegedly saw a sparkling opportunity.
If, in fact, Huawei or its jailbird financial director did anything wrong.
Which China categorically denies.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.