Sorry, Iran, China Isn’t Going to Save You

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and China's President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony at the Xijiao State Guesthouse in Shanghai on May 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Kenzaburo Fukuhara (Photo credit should read Kenzaburo Fukuhara/AFP/Getty Images)

The Donald Trump administration’s determination to squeeze Iran economically after withdrawing from the nuclear deal is already succeeding on one front: frightening European investors out of making deals with Tehran.

Yet Iran’s leadership thinks it has a secret weapon: to use Chinese investment and oil purchases as a way to compensate for the loss from the West.

Given China’s high energy needs and the trade war now on between Washington and Beijing, this may seem a realistic scenario. But it’s almost certainly a fantasy: While China can indeed take some of the sanctions heat off Iran, it is neither able nor willing to be Tehran’s economic savior.