China, Iran Sign Landmark 25-Year Deal with Big Implications for the Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – Iran and China signed a 25-year strategic deal on Saturday that could threaten the United States’ influence in the Middle East.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, met in Tehran for the signing. The deal, dubbed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, acts as a roadmap for China and Iran’s deep relations for the next 25 years, including their economic, defense, security, trade, and cultural partnerships.

Neither country provided details about the agreement, but The New York Times reported China has agreed to invest $400 billion into Iran in exchange for oil. The paper said it obtained an 18-page draft of the agreement last year.

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The draft also called for Iran and China to deepen their military cooperation, including joint-research on weapons development, joint-training, and intelligence sharing.

“China firmly supports Iran in safeguarding its state sovereignty and national dignity,” Wang said in a statement released by the Chinese government. Wang also called on the US to lift its crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic and “remove its long arm of jurisdictional measures that have been aimed at China, among others.”

Zarif said on Twitter that the powerful agreement is “an example of a successful diplomacy.”

The deal could undermine US leverage in the region and comes as world powers continue working to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the agreement in 2018 and slammed Iran with heavy sanctions.

The new Biden administration has offered to return to negotiations if Iran stops violating the agreement. Iran has refused and instead, is calling on the US to first lift the sanctions against it. China is one of the world powers that signed the nuclear agreement with Iran. The current US sanctions on Iran could hinder some of the success of the new agreement between China and Iran.

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Iran isn’t the only Middle Eastern country China has its eye on. Foreign Minister Wang already visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey and is scheduled to visit Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates in the coming days. China has also offered to host direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, suggesting that America’s involvement has done more harm than good.

Iran’s new deal with China is the first time it has signed such a lengthy deal with another world power. 

Iran and Russia signed a 10-year cooperation agreement, mainly in the nuclear field in 2001. That was lengthened to 20 years through two five-year extensions.    

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