By Aaron Kliegman\u00a0 Over the weekend, the world experienced a geopolitical earthquake, the tremors of which\u00a0may\u00a0be felt for years to come.\u00a0 The quake first hit Tehran, where\u00a0on Saturday\u00a0the foreign ministers of China and Iran signed a 25-year \u201ccomprehensive strategic partnership\u201d between their countries.\u00a0 While the exact terms of the deal haven\u2019t been publicized, we know the basic arrangement.\u00a0China will invest\u00a0significant sums of money in\u00a0Iran over the next quarter-century\u00a0in exchange for a\u00a0steady supply\u00a0of\u00a0cheap\u00a0Iranian oil.\u00a0 Contrary to what the media\u2019s\u00a0reported, the deal includes\u00a0no exact figures.\u00a0 We should therefore view reports saying China will invest some $400 billion in Iran with great skepticism. Given that Iran has never absorbed more than\u00a0$5 billion\u00a0of foreign direct investment in a single year, and given that China invested a\u00a0total\u00a0of\u00a0$182 billion\u00a0in the United States from 2005 to 2019 (more than any other country during those 15 years), the figures being reported today seem unrealistic, even ludicrous.\u00a0 If the numbers are accurate, Iran is surrendering its autonomy, with the Iranian regime relegating a great nation to nothing more than a Chinese gas station. It\u2019s more likely, however, that the numbers are pure propaganda, meant to awe the world with the sheer scale of this new deal.\u00a0 Regardless, the deal is a win-win\u00a0for two anti-American regimes: Iran\u00a0evades\u00a0America\u2019s punishing sanctions,\u00a0which have strangled the Iranian economy,\u00a0while China fuels its\u00a0insatiable drive for economic and military growth.\u00a0 The\u00a0agreement\u00a0also\u00a0seems to\u00a0include\u00a0a commitment to closer military cooperation, including joint training and the transfer of Chinese technology to Iran.\u00a0\u00a0 Even\u00a0more\u00a0concerning\u00a0is a clause,\u00a0detailed\u00a0in a former\u00a0draft of the deal, calling for both countries to share intelligence\u00a0\u2014 a collaboration that\u00a0could seriously threaten American and allied operations.\u00a0 The larger strategic threat\u00a0of this partnership, however,\u00a0is growing\u00a0Chinese\u00a0influence in the Middle East\u00a0\u2014 especially\u00a0as Washington continues to stumble about\u00a0in the region, looking for the exit sign\u00a0and leaving a vacuum for others to fill.\u00a0 For years,\u00a0China has been investing billions of dollars in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt. China is also the largest trading partner, or one of the largest, for several of these same countries, including both Iran and Saudi Arabia. And\u00a0China has invested\u00a0heavily in\u00a0a port near the Persian Gulf in Gwadar, Pakistan and\u00a0a military base by the entrance of the Red Sea in Djibouti, among other facilities. (Beijing has\u00a0plans\u00a0to\u00a0build\u00a0additional\u00a0bases in the region.)\u00a0 This new deal with Iran will\u00a0accelerate\u00a0Beijing\u2019s\u00a0regional influence\u00a0by\u00a0increasing its\u00a0economic developments and\u00a0formalizing its political support to Tehran.\u00a0 To our detriment, most Americans will think about this problem purely in terms of the Middle East. But\u00a0Chinese leaders have\u00a0a bigger strategic\u00a0vision\u00a0in mind.\u00a0\u00a0 Many of China\u2019s investments in the Middle East are part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),\u00a0an ambitious Chinese\u202fenterprise\u202fto integrate\u00a0Asia, Europe, and\u00a0Africa\u00a0by building and financing roads, railways, and pipelines by land and ports by sea.\u202fThe goal is\u202fto connect dozens of countries\u00a0across Afro-Eurasia,\u00a0with\u202fall roads ultimately leading\u202fto Beijing.\u202f\u00a0 Make no mistake: The BRI may look like an economic endeavor on the surface, but it\u2019s really a project\u00a0of imperial influence and, ultimately, dominance. By connecting Afro-Eurasia, China would be able to threaten the US\u00a0in unprecedented ways both\u00a0economically and militarily.\u00a0\u00a0 The Middle East is crucial to linking Europe with east Asia \u2014 just look at a map. And due to its size, location, and potential power, Iran is the key to influencing the Middle East.\u00a0 Hence China\u2019s interest in Iran. And Iran obviously needs China to resist the US. That both countries despise the US and Western values makes the partnership that much sweeter.\u00a0\u00a0 Americans need to recognize what\u2019s at stake here.\u00a0For decades, the main objective of American foreign policy\u00a0has been\u00a0to prevent one power,\u00a0or a network of powers,\u00a0from dominating\u00a0any region on the Eurasian supercontinent \u2014 Asia, the Middle East, or continental Europe.\u00a0 Today,\u00a0many analysts correctly worry about Iran\u00a0and China trying to dominate their respective regions\u00a0through brute imperialism.\u00a0But China wants\u00a0more than just east Asia\u00a0and sees Iran as an imperial partner in crime to help achieve the Chinese Communist Party\u2019s grand ambitions.\u00a0\u00a0 Elites in Washington like to separate regions and look at each\u00a0in isolation.\u00a0But the Chinese see the world as an interconnected system of regions and countries that blur into each other.\u00a0They know a\u00a0railway\u00a0in Iran or a port in Djibouti will help them later to achieve their goals in Europe and Africa.\u00a0 In other words, what China\u2019s doing in the Middle East won\u2019t stay in the Middle East.\u00a0 All that being said, we shouldn\u2019t exaggerate the importance of the\u00a0newly signed strategic partnership\u00a0between China and Iran. It\u2019s\u00a0not\u00a0the\u00a0dawn of a new global order or the\u00a0catalyst of the collapse of American power,\u00a0as\u00a0some analysts seem to think it is. Indeed, the agreement is more a general framework for Chinese-Iranian relations than a detailed roadmap.\u00a0\u00a0 However, the deal does lay the groundwork for deep, intimate ties between two hardened adversaries who wish America harm\u00a0and seek imperial dominance.\u00a0The\u00a0deal also\u00a0advances China\u2019s objective to supplant the US as the world\u2019s leading power. But\u00a0the agreement really formalizes what already exits rather than creates a new reality.\u00a0 Nonetheless, a\u00a0geopolitical earthquake rocked the world this past weekend. Whether we\u2019ll continue to feel the tremors in the coming years largely depends on the wisdom and effectiveness of Ame Newt hosts monthly virtual events in which he discusses news of the day and why it matters to you and your community. 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