The United Arab Emirates, “in a step coordinated with Washington,” recently agreed to increase oil exports to China from the current 50,000 barrels per day to 150,000-200,000, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The move is viewed as an Obama administration strategy to reduce Beijing’s reliance on Iran to meet its growing energy needs. It appears to be a move designed to contain Iran’s sphere of influence in the long run by offering China an alternative source of energy, therby reducing Iran’s leverage and influence.
(WSJ): “A senior Emirati official said Abu Dhabi plans to make a significant additional increase “within the next three years.”
Saudi Arabia, long at odds with Tehran, also appears prepared to offer China more oil to make up for any losses it incurs as part of an international effort to punish Iran, according to people familiar with Saudi thinking.
The kingdom buys considerable weapons, natural resources and consumer products from China, and is weighing how to leverage those purchases to persuade Beijing to distance itself from Tehran.
The U.S. strategy is as much about realigning diplomatic alliances as shifting the oil supply, U.S. officials said.
Flynt Leverett, director of the New America Foundation’s Iran Project, expressed his view that China would be unlikely to substitute Saudi Arabia for Iran to meet its oil needs in a recent discussion on China-Iran relations at Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School.
The U.S. is seeking China’s support for possible new sanctions on Iran should negotiations fail. Saudi Arabi and the United Arab Emirates could be instrumental to influencing China’s policy. China has given little indication that it is likely to go along with more sanctions, though. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently hailed cooperation with Iran.