CHINA-IRAN AIR FORCE COOPERATION
U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching what appears to be growing cooperation between Chinese and Iranian air forces.
With the conclusion of the Vienna deal on Iran’s nuclear program, China appears to be rapidly moving to sell additional military weapons and equipment to Tehran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week he expects sanctions against Iran to be lifted by the end of the year.
However, Tehran appears to have violated a United Nations ban on missile tests last month.
China state-run television and Iran’s official news agency reported Nov. 2 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force commander Gen. Ma Xiaotian met Iranian air force commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Shahsafi on Sunday to discuss increasing cooperation. The Iranian news agency said Gen. Shahsafi’s visit was an opportunity to expand cooperation between the Iranian and Chinese army and air forces.
The Iranian general said he would like greater interaction with China’s air force and “effective measures to raise combat readiness of the army and air forces of Iran and China.”
The expanded ties will include deeper cooperation in unspecified areas as well as in the area of military training.
The visit of the Iranian general set off speculation in U.S. military circles that the Iranians are seeking Chinese arms, including jet fighters to replace Iran’s outdated air force, as well as Chinese air defense systems.
China on Oct. 1 held a major military parade in Beijing to showcase its new missiles and other weaponry. Included during the parade was the new ship-mounted HQ-10 missile system used for anti-aircraft and antimissile defenses. China remains one of the world’s most significant arms proliferators, having provided nuclear warhead technology and missiles to Pakistan for decades.
Despite international sanctions on Tehran, China has been a major supplier for Iran’s weapons, including Silkworm and C-802 anti-ship missiles and know-how for Iran’s medium-range Shahab missiles. Much of