Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is visiting China and is expected to lobby Beijing to take a tougher stand against Tehran’s controversial nuclear program especially if the recent sanctions on Iran would not influence its behavior. China backed the UN Security Council resolution last month imposing sanctions on transfer of sensitive nuclear and weapons technology and materials to Iran and expected to be in place till Iran refuses to eschew its nuclear ambitions. Russia and China have consistently argued for negotiated settlement with Iran and whittled down language of the sanctions essentially rendering it ineffective.
Tehran argues that its intentions are peaceful and its nuclear program civilian in nature. However, its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to wipe Israel “off the map,” hosting conference belittling the holocaust, and secretive deals with disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan has increased fears in Tel Aviv about Tehran’s true intentions.
A recent report in the British press leaked plans for a pre-emptive attack being prepared by Israel along the lines of its attack on Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981. Tehran hopes that “China does not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran” but say that the challenge is “to preserve China’s resolve” in dealing with “Iranian compliance.”
Ever since bilateral relations were set up 15 years ago, two other prime ministers had visited China and bilateral trade has grown to USD 3 billion and is expected to reach USD 5 billion by 2008. But China has a much larger economic relationship with Iran making up 12% of its oil imports. However, Tel Aviv believes that “energy supplies are China’s main priority” and thinks that a nuclear armed Iran may spark a global nuclear weapons development drive and also seriously destroy regional peace. Since West Asia has the highest oil deposits fuelling the world economy, regional conflict can seriously affect oil supplies and drive up crude oil rates and greatly affect global economy. This is the angle that Israel is pitching and this is the angle that India is also worried about.