February 01, 2023 | Claire Jungman and Daniel Roth
In the two years since the start of the Biden Administration, the Islamic Republic of Iran has managed to export just over 600 million barrels of oil to China, worth around $48 billion. When questioned about these eye-watering numbers this month, U.S. Special Envoy to Iran Rob Malley assured Bloomberg that the Biden team was “not fine with it.” Unfortunately, Mr. Malley’s proposed remedy – to “intensify” talks with Beijing – is unlikely to prove much of a departure from the existing policy failure of “quiet diplomacy.”
Secretary of State Blinken’s visit to Beijing February 5-6 is the perfect opportunity to try a new approach, which is desperately required. Nothing has altered the accuracy of our prediction made in July 2019 that “China will in all likelihood continue to defy U.S. oil sanctions,” and “Quiet Diplomacy Plus” will not be any more effective. If the regime can expect to export another $25 billion worth of oil to China over 2023, there is scant incentive for Tehran to consider fundamental behavioral changes based on economic constraints - let alone the prospect of regime collapse. Once again, Chinese imports hit more than 1 million barrels of Iranian oil per day over January.