March 29, 2021
Beijing and Tehran’s signing of a 25-year “strategic” cooperation agreement has triggered skepticism in Iran as the government of President Hassan Rouhani and officials close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei failed to give concrete details about the deal.
Iranian officials rushed to calm public fears towards the agreement’s stipulations not being fully disclosed, but failed in preventing a surge of criticism of the move on social media platforms.
The agreement is said to cover a variety of economic activity from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations. It also includes defense and security cooperation.
The deal was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his meeting with Khamenei back in 2016. Since then, hardliners in Iran have insisted on moving the country closer to the East and joining forces with Moscow and Beijing against the West.
“Iran is ready to work with China to earnestly implement the Iran-China comprehensive strategic partnership to push bilateral practical cooperation to a new high,” Khamenei said at the time.
Over the past five years, Iranian and Chinese officials have held consultations to sign an economic and security partnership agreements, paving the way for billions of dollars to flow through Chinese investment in Iran.
Media outlets have estimated the new deal would inject Iran with around $ 400 billion in Chinese investments.
More so, the agreement opens the door to expanding military cooperation, collaborations in research and development of weapons and intelligence, and invite joint work in the field of international organizations.
“The agreement can elevate bilateral ties to a new strategic level,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
China is Iran’s leading trade partner and was one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil before then US president Donald Trump reimposed sweeping unilateral sanctions in 2018.