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Everyone’s Still Trying to Figure Out If The New China-Iran Agreement is a Big Deal or a Whole Lot of Nothing

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the capital Tehran, on March 27, 2021. AFP

Conservative commentators and media in the United States all seem to think that China’s newly signed 25-year strategic cooperation agreement with Iran is a game-changer and marks the emergence of a new anti-democratic power axis. But pretty much everyone else isn’t quite so sure. In fact, a lot of observers suspect that the agreement is really just an MoU, given that it contains no measurable targets, and is more aspirational than immediate in scope.

Latest Commentary and Analysis on the China-Iran Agreement:

  • AN “ASPIRATIONAL DOCUMENT”: “There may be less than meets the eye in the agreement, at least in its current form. Bill Figueroa, a researcher specializing in China-Iran relations, argued in a Twitter thread that the agreement was ‘not a big deal.’ Instead, it’s ‘an aspirational document’ that ‘provides no methods for enforcement, measurable goals, or specific programs.'”  (THE DIPLOMAT)
  • NO FIRM NUMBERS: “Although the deal has been touted as being worth $400bn, the Chinese and the Iranian foreign ministries insist no detailed contracts have been signed, so valuations of this sort are largely worthless.” (THE GUARDIAN)
  • THE ROLE OF THE U.S.: “Now that Iran has signed a strategic accord with China, which is also a party to the JCPOA, it will be hoping for more than simply increased oil sales, vital as they are to an economy that has been badly damaged by sanctions. The deal should give Iran more leverage with the US.” (BBC NEWS)

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