Why Iran-China Deal Makes US Sanctions Ineffective?

Ali Shams Ardakani
Some people are calling it a fiasco, some others are calling it a big achievement. Let’s review some facts about a very controversial deal between Beijing and Tehran.

These days we hear a lot about the 25-year deal between Iran and China that has met with very mixed reactions from various groups, especially from ordinary people. Some people have a negative opinion of the agreement and claim it sells off the country, specifically the Kish Island, to China, and this opinion is widely going viral on social media and the cyberspace. There are some other people who look at the deal from an expert point of view and argue that the agreement is in line with our national interests and independence. The negative opinion could be the result of lack of a careful study of the provisions of this document with minimal legal knowledge.


In order to set up important and sensitive documents like the Iran-China deal, every single word should be carefully chosen and used, as every word and sentence has technical and legal effects and consequences in international law:


1- The draft document has 9 clauses in which the words “deal” or “agreement” have not been used at all; instead, words like “plan” and “document” have been used. This shows that both the Iranian and the Chinese sides know that it is not a usual deal or agreement as the terms are used in international law.


2- The document is merely a “framework”. This means that neither of its clauses and parts are executable by themselves, as each of them requires a negotiation and a deal by the state or private sector. It should also be noted that such agreements and deals require legal procedures in order to be formally ratified, including the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Iranian Parliament). Definitely, the Parliament would consider Iran’s national interests in approving the deal and it is required that the Guardian Council supervises the process and approves the deal as well.


3-considering the preface and the first three clauses of the document, it is clear that it has been set up based on the two countries’ common interests and a win-win policy, respecting the authority and independence of both Iran and China. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about. We need to carefully study all these clauses that have been meticulously written based on international law and the United Nations Charter.


4- There is a very important clause in this document that depicts the sagacity of both sides, specially the Iranian side.        The 8th clause of the deal insists that both sides should withstand “external pressures” illegally imposed by a third party. As we see in the clause, the word “protection” is used instead of the word “support”; as protecting the deal entails executive mechanisms but supporting it does not necessarily require such mechanisms.


5- The 8th clause of the document could be a nightmare for the US as it defies its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and make it futile. This is China and not Venezuela.


6- Nowhere in the document it is stated that Iran cedes the ownership of a land or an island to China. Yet it is possible and very common for any government to give a land for long-term investment to the government or private sector of another country.


7- Today if a country wants to be successful, it needs to move forward with its self-confidence and national pride and also tie its strategic interests to the interests of big, advanced, influential and respectable countries that do not seek domination.  These two factors (strategic interaction with a powerful government and having self-confidence and relying on local capacities) do not contradict each other; rather, they will be complementary.


8- There might be a question about the development of free trade zones; why is it that after 15 years, we see no significant advancement or development in Arvand free trade zone? Here is the answer: we were not successful in attracting foreign investors or not strongly willing to do so. In this respect, the Iran-China Comprehensive Cooperation Plan should be considered a golden opportunity. On one side of the deal there is China with its political, economic, and military power in the world, and on the other side we have Iran with its abundant oil and non-oil resources, which is a powerful and stable country in the region and a key player in regional equations. Our country cannot be compared to small countries like Qatar, Bahrain, or the UAE that have no way but to accept foreign domination in order to provide for their security.  It is Iran; with all its unique features and its unique history.


Ali Shams Ardakani is a senior analyst and former diplomat.


This Op-Ed was originally published in Persian at Etemadnewspaper.ir