As the West sought to punish Iran for its violent crackdown on protesters this week, Russia and China together banned showing support in hopes of deepening allegiance between the three nations.
On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Council held a special session to address “the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly with regard to women and children and passed a resolution to promote accountability for alleged atrocities.
Of the council’s 47 member countries, 25 voted to create a new fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights abuses linked to protests in Iran. China was among the six votes against the resolution. Although Russia was suspended from the council earlier this year for its invasion of Ukraine, Russia called the UN meeting “counterproductive” and claimed that the creation of such a mission was ” illegitimate”.
Iran has seen an unprecedented level of protests in the past two months after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died while in the custody of Iran’s “morals police” on September 16. This month, Iran handed down the first death sentence in connection with the unrest, evoking many deadly months following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In response to the protests, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran for its treatment of protesters, but Russia and China have remained defiant of such measures, weighing their options on the international stage.
In a statement about Thursday’s special session, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said: “Such initiatives have nothing to do with concern for the rights because their goal is to pin labels and pressure undesirable states, using rights as an excuse,” according to Russian news agency Tass.
Timothy Heath, senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, said interactions between Russia, Iran and China are important to watch because of the pressures each nation faces.
“Russia’s war effort is failing, Iran’s economic and domestic political situation is in disarray, and China’s economic situation has deteriorated,” Heath said. “Chances are that they will feel more and more motivated to collaborate and help each other, otherwise [they’ll have to] watch each other fall one by one.”
Heath, an expert on Chinese national strategy, politics and the military, said Thursday’s vote came as no surprise given the increasingly sympathetic attitude Beijing has displayed toward Iran. In recent weeks, China has argued for a less punitive approach to Iran while mounting its criticism of the West’s response.
Russia, which has increased its military reliance on Iranian drones for its war effort in Ukraine, has taken a similar stance, avoiding any disruption in its relations with Tehran.
“Russia wants the status quo, and it will use its powers at the UN to try to maintain the status quo,” said Michael Kimmage, a former member of the US secretary of state’s policy planning staff. Newsweek.
Kimmage, who held the Russia/Ukraine portfolio during his time at the State Department, said Russia and Iran aren’t exactly allies, but “they have a lot of business they do together and they want let it continue”.
However, China faces a slightly different situation than Russia. While Russia was essentially cut off from Western markets following its invasion of Ukraine, China still deals heavily with the West, limiting how far China can go to support Iran.
“As sympathetic as it may be to Iran and Russia, China needs the West economically,” Kimmage said. “So there’s a limit to what China can afford to antagonize the US, Europe and Japan, because those are the markets that are driving the Chinese economy.”
Because China needs Western markets more than it needs to maintain goodwill with Iran, Heath said China is unlikely to overtly violate US sanctions. , and will therefore avoid doing business where it is not permitted.
“The position that makes the most sense for China is to politically criticize the Western approach, to advocate for a more measured approach, but to refrain from any formal violation or break with any UN-backed sanctions.” , did he declare.