CHINA-IRAN AIR FORCE CO­OP­ER­A­TION

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

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

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