25-Year Cooperation Agreement between China and National interests of Iran

2021/05/17 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online- Signing of the 25-year agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and China within the past few months, has fanned a lot of debates. Efforts have been made to assess it from different points of view in this short article and to elaborate its consequences for Iran’s national interest. Arash Raeissinia, Professor of International Relations, Tehran University

Having scrutinized the draft first published in June 2020, it is assumed that energy in economic fields is the most important area covered by the Agreement. Iran is in need of investment, especially in infrastructures from one hand, and China needs the security of supply in its required energy from other hand. It should be remembered that Iran is the only country that can provide strategic access of China to the Persian Gulf energy resources through the land connecting network, and save China from its dependence on the Malaga Strait and its vulnerable Achilles heel. In the meantime, Iran is the only oil-rich country in West Asia that follows its own independent energy policies.

Other fields such as scientific and technological areas will be similarly influenced by the Agreement Cooperation. Scientific cooperation in new technologies, especially Nano-technology has been referred to in the text of the Agreement repeatedly. A country like Iran is in need of the most recent know-how in infrastructure, logistics, and rail-road to play its important role in the new silk road.

Although, the achievements are important, yet it is assumed that lack of strategic conceptions has reduced the capacities of the Agreement to superficial levels. This could be seen in the understanding of the process emanated from the unwanted outcomes of the competition between China and the US at the international level which, wantedly or unwantedly, will bring about the combination of important threats and opportunities for Iran. Biden’s policies against China are in line with Trump policies against Beijing. However, Biden tries to adopt a multilateral approach along with his European allies. The US is unable to exert pressure on the land Belt, it therefore, is not following the US previous policies like New Silk Road Initiative (NSRI) to link the Central Asia to India through Afghanistan, of which Tapi pipeline (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) and Lapis lazuli corridors are the remaining parts. Instead, the US will concentrate on the sea rout where it can exert pressure on China. For the first time during Trump Administration, Pentagon combined Asia-Pacific and Indian Oceans centcoms to make the Indo-Pacific cent-com in order to contain China in India and the Pacific oceans. Biden has bowed to the twist and even tries to further strengthen the quadrilateral alliance called Quad including the US, India, Japan, and Australia. This shows that the future US policies in the coming year must be seen as such: Leave the Belt, Press the Road. This means that the land belt of the Silk Road will spare from the US pressure, but the sea route will totally remain under pressure. In short, Beijing’s effort to launch and advance the new Silk Road must be seen in the competition between Washington-Beijing in the competitive economic areas at the “surface” level. But in-depth, the New Silk Road will remain the geo-politics rivalry between China and the US to dominate the world during the 21st century.

China has so far, tried to go on with its policies in West Asia based on the positive balance with the regional parties involved in the tension. Beijing has established close economic relations with Ankara and the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms. Likewise, because of its dire need for new technologies, China adopted increasing cooperation with the Zionist Regime. Yet, because of the unwanted outcomes of China’s containment policy adopted by the US as well as Biden’s pressure on his middle-east allies not to support Beijing, the relations between Tehran –Beijing will be transformed from economic to strategic relations more than ever in the past. In fact, the US unwantedly sponsors the formation of a new strategic block (and not an alliance) between the Lion and the Dragon.

In such a competition of power between China and the US, Iran should establish her policies based on seizing the opportunities and bypassing the threats. If the Chinese sea route is under pressure, then we should be smart in selection of our ports allocated to China. With her macro strategy called MAOSAM, and having played the pivotal role, India follows the idea of establishing economic relations with her traditional trade partners in the Indian Ocean. The region covers East Africa, Southern Iran, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. It can be understood that the Indian presence in Chabahar port is the first step to materialize her MAOSAM strategy and launching her Cotton Road to have access to Afghanistan and Central Asia through Chabahar port, confronting with Chinese pearl chain and joining the North-South economic corridor. That’s the reason one should understand why Chabahar port is the only place in Iran to remain unhurt from the US sanctions. If the Chinese presence in Chabahar port will lead to Indian exit, then it is not a far-sighted decision because it would lead to the sanction of a single oceanic port in Iran. So, it will be better if we encourage China to invest in Jaask (and not Chabahar) port. For sure, China would rather establish its commercial base in a port nearer to the Strait of Hormuz, the critical energy highway, or at least we should smartly manage the simultaneous presence of New Delhi and Beijing in Chabahar port.

In short, Iran can’t benefit from the strategic achievements of the Agreement without harboring this notion that she is the fulcrum of the new Silk Road.

A package of import-export agreements accompanied with promises of political support will not stay for long without any connecting way between the two ancient civilizations. The outlook of the effect of the Agreement to the benefit of Iran’s national interests can be visualized only if we have a strategic conception.

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