China and Russia are in discussion with Iran, conducting talks to provide a key chemical compound to the country to help build solid-fuel rockets. This would break United Nations sanctions, and could allow Russia – already on the brink of running out of rockets – to top up its supply. The compound in question is ammonium perchlorate (AP), which is the main ingredient in solid rocket fuel. Solid-propellant rockets, which Iran relies on, are long-lasting and reliable, ideal for military use. The country is also developing its own long-range missiles under the guise of space programs. Iran currently supplies Russia with Kamedo drones that Russia has subsequently used to attack Ukrainian military targets.
The talks between Iran, China and Russia follow a growth in relations between the three countries, with China seen as a counter to US influence. China has provided Russia with some military equipment, each time pulling back for fear of angering the US and its European trading partners. All three nations have suffered due to international sanctions – Russia’s missile supply is almost depleted and Iran’s surreptitious nuclear programme means it also faces international sanctions. Iran is seeking to increase its supply of ballistic missiles as it looks to flex its muscles in the Middle East. In 2020, it fired 12 ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq, marking the largest move against the forces to date.
AMMonitor notes that the volume of chemical Iran is seeking to purchase “speaks to the imperative of possessing this material”. Iran has had concurrent negotiations with both countries concerning the future procurement of the compound. Iran is relying on its development of solid-propellant missiles as its main weapons and its access to AP is crucial to further its military agenda. Analysts speculate that if the sale were to go ahead, some of the thousands of rockets created could be sent to Ukraine. China is cognisant of the pressure on Russia to maintain its supply of rockets given the ongoing war against Ukraine. The Chinese may be willing to flout the UN sanctions it signed off on to help Russia’s war effort as it tries to firmly plant itself as an ally with Moscow with increasing fears that its neighbour’s collapse could destabilise the remainder of the region.
Iran’s foreign ministry along with Russia and China has not responded to questions.