Last August, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, paid a visit to his China counterpart, Wang Li, to present a roadmap on a comprehensive 25-year China-Iran strategic partnership that built upon a previous agreement signed in 2016.
According to OilPrice.com, last year, at a meeting in Gilan province, former Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alluded to some of the secret parts of this deal in public for the first time, stating that: “It is not valid to enter into a secret agreement with foreign parties without considering the will of the Iranian nation and against the interests of the country and the nation, and the Iranian nation will not recognize it.” According to the same senior sources closely connected to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry who originally outlined the secret element of the 25-year deal, not only is the secret element of that deal going ahead but China has also added in a new military element, with enormous global security implications.
One of the secret elements of the deal signed last year is that China will invest $280 billion in developing Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemicals sectors. This amount will be front-loaded into the first five-year period of the new 25-year deal, and the understanding is that further amounts will be available in each subsequent five year period, provided that both parties agree.
There will be another $120 billion of investment, which again can be front-loaded into the first five-year period, for upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, and again subject to increase in each subsequent period should both parties agree. In exchange for this, to begin with, Chinese companies will be given the first option to bid on any new – or stalled or uncompleted – oil, gas, and petrochemicals projects in Iran.
China will also be able to buy any and all oil, gas, and petrochemical products at a minimum guaranteed discount of 12 percent to the six-month rolling mean average price of comparable benchmark products, plus another 6 to 8 percent of that metric for risk-adjusted compensation.
Additionally, China will be granted the right to delay payment for up to two years and, significantly, it will be able to pay in soft currencies that it has accrued from doing business in Africa and the Former Soviet Union states. “Given the exchange rates involved in converting these soft currencies into hard currencies that Iran can obtain from its friendly Western banks, China is looking at another 8 to 12 per cent discount, which means a total discount of around 32 per cent for China on all oil gas, and petrochemicals purchases,” one of the Iran sources underlined.
Another key part of the secret element to the 25-year deal is that China will be integrally involved in the build-out of Iran’s core infrastructure, which will be in absolute alignment with China’s key geopolitical multi-generational project, ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR). To begin with, China intends to utilize the currently cheap labour available in Iran to build factories that will be financed, designed, and overseen by big Chinese manufacturing companies with identical specifications and operations to those in China. The final manufactured products will then be able to access Western markets through new transport links, also planned, financed, and managed by China.
In this vein, around the same time as the draft new 25-year deal was presented last year by Iran’s Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri (and senior figures from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and intelligence agencies) to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, Jahangiri announced that Iran had signed a contract with China to implement a project to electrify the main 900-kilometre railway connecting Tehran to the north-eastern city of Mashhad.
Jahangiri added that there are also plans to establish a Tehran-Qom-Isfahan high-speed train line and to extend this upgraded network up to the north-west through Tabriz. Tabriz, home to a number of key sites relating to oil, gas, and petrochemicals, and the starting point for the Tabriz-Ankara gas pipeline, will be a pivot point of the 2,300 kilometre New Silk Road that links Urumqi (the capital of China’s western Xinjiang Province) to Tehran, and connecting Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan along the way, and then via Turkey into Europe.
Now, though, another element that will change the entire balance of geopolitical power in the Middle East has been added to the deal. “Last week, the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] agreed to the extension of the existing deal to include new military elements that were proposed by the same senior figures in the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the intelligence services that proposed the original deal, and this will involve complete aerial and naval military co-operation between Iran and China, with Russia also taking a key role,” one of the Iran sources told OilPrice.com last week. “There is a meeting scheduled in the second week of August between the same Iranian group, and their Chinese and Russian counterparts, that will agree the remaining details but, provided that goes as planned, then as of 9 November, Sino-Russian bombers, fighters, and transport planes will have unrestricted access to Iranian air bases,” he said.
It is again apposite to note here that an entire EW company can consist of as little as 100 men and, according to the Iran sources, part of the new military co-operation includes an exchange of personnel between Iran and China and Russia, with up to 110 senior Iranian IRGC men going for training every year in Beijing and Moscow and 110 Chinese and Russians going to Tehran for their training.
Aside from political support at the U.N. General Assembly and the $400 billion of investments pledged by China, the other reason that Iran has agreed to such Chinese (and Russian) influence in its country going forward is that China has guaranteed that it will continue to take all of the oil, gas, and petrochemicals that Iran requires.
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