In recent weeks, Iran and China have been hammering out the details of a potentially momentous cooperation deal meant to span the next quarter-century and chart a future disconnected from the USA.
Under the terms of a draft viewed by Asia Times, China will invest tens of billions of US dollars in Iran as part of Beijing’s ambitious Road and Belt Initiative. The 25-year agreement includes economic, security, and military dimensions.
Such a deal is particularly important for Iran’s ailing energy sector, which is in dire need of substantial investment to refurbish an aging oil industry.
This requires upwards to $150 billion for much-needed modernization of wells, refineries and other infrastructure.
The negotiations are ongoing, even as the Donald Trump administration continues to pin hope on Iran’s economic strangulation by a unilateral maximum pressure strategy and against the backdrop of growing US-China rivalry.
If approved by the Iranian parliament, the plan represents a major affront to the Trump administration’s relentless pursuit of Iran’s economic isolation in the international community.
As expected, news of the China-Iran agreement has set off a chorus of condemnation in the Zionist controlled Western world.
Some Iranian opponents in exile have branded the plan as the Islamic Republic’s “sellout” to China and view it as a testament to China’s ability to transform Iran into one of its “satellites.”
Critics have falsely claimed the plan contains a “monopoly clause”, most controversially granting China control over one of Iran’s Persian Gulf islands.
Reputed leaked versions of the agreement, clearly aimed to undercut the deal, have been published in Farsi and in English and claim to include provisions that could be perceived as harmful to Iran at China’s expense.
Should China undertake such a massive long-term investment in Iran, it is very likely that Beijing will take over the strategic Iranian port of Chahbahar — the country’s outlet to the Indian Ocean.
The port enjoys a waiver from US sanctions imposed on Iran, which was granted as a nod to India’s ambitions for the Chahbahar port.
In Tehran’s view, New Delhi has squandered that opportunity by effectively siding with the US on oil sanctions and failing to make adequate investments in the port.
The new Iran-China agreement points to both nations’ changing strategic calculus in the current international landscape, where international norms and principles have been eroded largely by the Trump administration’s unilateral and aggressive policies.
Slowly but surely, a triumvirate of China, Iran and neighboring Pakistan is forming. This alliance could also encompass Afghanistan and over time is expected to add Iraq and Syria, strategic anathema to Washington and New Delhi.
A complementary new agreement between Iran and Syria, praised by President Bashar al-Assad, signifies Iran’s intent to retain its strategic foothold in that war-torn country, both as a gateway to Lebanon and the Arab world and deterrent to Israel.
Tehran understands itself to be as a pivotal power in West Asia and the Middle East, and can be expected to retaliate against the culprits behind recent attacks on Natanz nuclear facility and the Parchin military complex at a time and place of its choosing.
Some analysts in Iran contend that there is still a narrow window of opportunity for a new Tehran-Washington deal, prompted partly as a reaction to the mentioned Tehran-Beijing agreement.
They see China’s steadfast defense of Iran at the UN Security Council as a testament to Beijing’s reliability.
Iranian hardliners are also cognizant of their country’s ability to serve China’s BRI, not only for the 80 million-strong Iranian market but the larger Eurasian landmass encompassing some 4.6 billion people.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2020.