we shall trample upon your ashes

Iran media discuss 25-year deal between Iran and China
Seth J Frantzman, JPost, Jul 5 2020

In the last several days, Iranian media have highlighted the possibility of a 25-year memorandum or agreement with China that would see Iran benefit from China’s robust and strong economy and help increase the partnership between the two countries. Iran and China already have warm relations, and China is likely keen to knit Iran into its various economic plans, such as the Belt and Road Initiative. Iran has been ready for participation in these initiatives and sought to turn to Turkey, Russia, India and China due to Pindo sanctions. News of this agreement has been raised before. In early June, Al-Manar and Tehran Times both reported it in English and pointed to it as part of the initiative of President Hassan Rouhani’s current government. This “road map” for the next 25 years of China ties was mentioned by government spox Ali Rabiei on Jun 23. Full details of the plan were supposed to be published at some point. Iranian Foreign Ministry spox Abbas Mousavi was supposed to present more details.

The “25-year agreement” was raised by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a political visit to Gilan province when he alleged there was a secret agreement. He argued against recognizing this contract. Radio Farda indicates that since June 27 there have been more rumors. A pro-government conservative website in Farsi has mentioned that Iran is seeking this 25-year deal, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been tasked by Rouhani with working it out. Ahmadinejad has tried to make it appear as if something is being hidden from the public. Meanwhile, the deal was described as a pact between the “Lion and the Dragon” by another newspaper. Apparently, Iran is the lion in this relationship.

What is really going on? Tasnim news has put the Iran-China ties headline on its homepage. It argues that Iran and China have been in discussions for many years about closely working together. It also notes a trip by Zarif last year and a tweet he wrote in August 2019 where he mentioned a “25-year road map.” Tasnim’s point is that this is not a “secret” agreement the way the former president presented it, but rather a well-known track of diplomacy. The question the article raises is how much investment is on the table. It notes that figures between $120b and $400b have been mentioned, with one article noting a $260b investment in Iran’s oil and gas sector. Tasnim’s article hints at a larger nationalist concern in Iran. During the Cold War, Iran sought a third way between the West and the Soviet Union. This was “neither east nor west.” But the article notes that Iran has sought to shift toward an “eastern strategy.” This does not mean “exploitation” as in the earlier eras of Western colonialism, but mutual interests. The point the article makes is that Iran does not want to be subjugated economically by China.

Ahmadinejad is well known as a champion of the working class and a personally modest man who was not known for a lavish lifestyle, perhaps in contrast to some of those in the current Iranian leadership accused of corruption, or those like Zarif who seem to enjoy being abroad more than being in Iran. Tasnim accuses Rouhani of kissing up to the West and now apparently weakening Iran in its relationships with the East. In contrast, Iran’s Fars News seems to favor the agreement and notes that Iran and China have increased relations and cultural exchanges in recent years. This second report notes that Iran and China have not reached a strategic level of partnership and compares Iran-China relations with China-Pakistan relations. The article notes that Iran-China relations will anger the US, and it appears to think this is a good idea. This is also important for Iran in the UNSC. Iran wants China’s support to end an arms embargo. The overall details about this plan appear to be more about internal politics than just about China. It hinges on issues of national importance and what level of new ties Iran and China may create.

Iran is negotiating 25-year strategic accord with China, Zarif says
Middle East Eye, Jul 5 2020

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that Iran has been negotiating a 25-year accord with China, Iran’s top trading partner, whose terms will be announced once a deal is struck. He told a stormy session of parliament:

With confidence and conviction, we are negotiating a 25-year strategic accord with China.

China is also a key market for Iranian crude oil exports, although those have been dampened by Pindo economic sanctions imposed after Faschingstein’s 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran, AFP said. An accord with China has been a hot topic on Iranian social media since populist ex-president Mahmud Ahmadinejad last month denounced negotiations that were underway with a foreign country. The agreement was raised by Ahmadinejad during a recent political visit to Gilan province, where he alleged that there was a secret agreement and argued against recognising the contract, according to the JPost. Still, Zarif, who came under fire over the 2015 nuclear accord that Iranian conservatives had opposed, insisted there was “nothing secret” about the China deal. The nation will be informed “when an accord has been concluded,” he said, adding it had already been made public in Jan 2016 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran.

In the last several days, Iranian media have highlighted the possibility that the agreement would see Iran benefit from China’s robust economy and help increase the partnership between the two countries, the JerPost noted. The two countries already have warm relations and Beijing may be keen to knit Iran more deeply into its various economic plans at a time when Iran has turned to China and other countries in its struggle against damaging US economic sanctions. Washington is also currently pushing to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October. The US already has the support of Saudi Arabia and Israel, but China, Russia, Germany, the UK and France, all members of the UNSC and signatories to the nuclear deal with Iran, have publicly expressed their opposition to the extension plan.

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