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China's Middle East Tour

Beijing's Post-Sanctions Ambitions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran, January 23, 2016. President.ir Handout / Reuters

Even as the Iran nuclear deal and the potential for rapprochement between Tehran and the West has inspired countless op-eds, China’s budding relationship with Iran has gone relatively unremarked upon. But on January 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping became the first world leader to visit Iran after the deal. Xi stated that he sought to open a “new chapter” in China’s relations with Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “The Islamic Republic will never forget China’s cooperation during [the] sanctions era.”

Xi’s trip to the region, which also included stops in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, was a continuation of Beijing’s increased involvement in the Middle East. It may be less dramatic than other great powers’ forays into the region (Russia’s recent intervention in Syria, for one), but it is no less significant. It signals that Washington’s decades-long period of unchallenged preeminence in the

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