Iranian officials finalized a 25-year trade deal with China on March 27. A day earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh acknowledged Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was supposed to sign the deal during his two-day trip to Iran.
Officials in Iran call the deal a strategic pact. However, they refuse to publish its clauses. Opponents compare the agreement with the Turkmenchay treaty, which cede control over several areas in the South Caucasus, including the Erivan Khanate, the Nakhchivan Khanate, and the Talysh Khanate, to Russia in February 1828.
According to sources familiar with the details, Iran would gain nothing through the accord. It just offers low-price oil to China in exchange for political privileges like the Chinese veto at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). However, Iranian officials falsely tout the deal as a card against the U.S. and other Western powers in nuclear negotiations.
In other words, Tehran resorted to Beijing to ease its economic dilemmas while their transactions have dramatically declined in recent years. “Reportedly, Iran and China have done some $20 billion in trade annually in recent years. That’s down from nearly $52 billion in 2014, however, because of a decline in oil prices and U.S. sanctions imposed in 2018,” AP reported.
However, unpublished clauses of the deal are the primary concern of the government’s critics inside Iran and abroad, Farsi edition of EuroNews wrote. “The Iran-China relationship is deep, multi-layer and full-fledged,” EuroNews quoted Khatibzadeh as saying. “The accord addressed the issue of economic cooperation between the two countries, especially ‘The contract paves the path for Iran’s participation in China’s plan of Belt and Road.’”
Back in September 2019, the Petroleum-Economist revealed some unannounced parts of the contract—the Petroleum-Economist’s piece no longer exists due to unclear reasons. “Among other benefits, Chinese companies will be given the first refusal to bid on any new, stalled or uncompleted oil and gas field developments. Chinese firms will also have the first refusal of opportunities to become involved with any and all petchems projects in Iran, including the provision of technology, systems, process ingredients, and personnel required to complete such projects,” wrote the Petroleum-Economist.
According to an Iranian source, the website had elaborated, “This will include up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel on the ground in Iran to protect Chinese projects, and there will be additional personnel and material available to protect the eventual transit of oil, gas, and petchems supply from Iran to China, where necessary, including through the Persian Gulf.”
“China will also be able to buy any and all oil, gas, and petchems products at a minimum guaranteed discount of 12pc to the six-month rolling mean price of comparable benchmark products, plus another 6pc to 8pc of that metric for risk-adjusted compensation,” the website added.
The report also revealed that Khamenei had been briefed by Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri and senior figures in oil and trade fields and commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Notably, in a Parliament (Majlis) session, Deputy Speaker Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi had already defended the deal, banning MPs from scrutinizing it.
As an agent of Khamenei, Ghazizadeh Hashemi’s defense proves that high-ranking officials, including Khamenei Office, were utterly informed about details. In a nutshell, there is no distinction between high-ranking officials over the contract.
In its July 1, 2020 edition, Hamdeli paper questioned the deal, entitled, “Will Iran become a Chinese colony?” Iranian Journalist Shirzad Abdollahi then compared the contract with previous treaties in the pre-Islamic Republic era.
“This [deal] is really a kind of colonial agreement that violates Iran’s independence. Including the presence of 5,000 Chinese security forces in Iran!… The Chinese are investing about $400 billion in Iran. Instead, the Chinese have been given similar privileges, such as the Reuter concession, the D’Arcy Concession, and the Reggie contract (Tobacco monopoly) in Nasser al-Din Shah’s era,” Abdollahi wrote.
“Our criticism of the previous regime was that it dependent on the West. The solution to dependence on the West is independence, not dependence or inclination toward the East,” he added.
Iranian activists believe that the officials see taking refuge in foreign countries as a lifeline to preserve power. In this respect, they granted several concessions to China, Russia, and India, including low-price power, giant oil projects, and trawling privileges to the Chinese, the Caspian Sea to Russia, and Chabahar port to India.
In other words, Tehran resorted to these countries to nullify international pressure in terms of human rights violations and terrorism to crack down on protesters inside the country. However, given the establishment’s fragile conditions, even its strategic allies can no longer turn a blind eye to the ayatollahs’ provocative functions in the Middle East.
Furthermore, Iran’s refusal to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has banned these countries from settling their debts, let alone making payments in exchange for their purchases from Iran. Therefore, the Iranian government’s disastrous policies in the past 42 years are the main obstacle to a prosperous and glorious country for the people of Iran. This reality cannot be ignored, and the people have shown their genuine desires in the recent nationwide protests.