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Controversy Over Iran-China 'Pact’ Continues As Text Is Leaked

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, greets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province, Sunday, June 10, 2018

A highly controversial document outlining a proposed long-term pact between Iran and China has been leaked amid strong public criticism of what has been dubbed as Iran’s capitulation and a sell-out of national resources.

The document titles, "Comprehensive Plan for Cooperation between Iran and China" for the next 25 years, was first mentioned last month but government officials refused to spell out its details.

Many, including politicians and analysts in and out of Iran have been discussing and criticizing "the 25-year-long contract between Iran and China." Some have even gone as far as calling it "a colonial contract" and likening it to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchai between Iran and Russia based on which Iran (then called Persia) ceded the control of large parts of its territory to Russia.

However, the 18-page "Comprehensive plan" Iranian politicians and analysts have seen after it was leaked, probably deliberately to mollify critics, is nothing more than one-sided Iranian wishful thinking for long-term cooperation with China.

Tehran has been hard squeezed by U.S. sanctions and diplomatically isolated. It hopes China will be ready to boost cooperation, or at least say something that can bring a measure of hope to a hard-pressed population.

Prior to the revelation of the document approved by the Iranian government, many were speculating that China might agree to make hundreds of billions of dollars in deals with Iran in exchange for the country’s natural resources and even military bases.

Iranian analyst Reza Haqiqatnezhad, one of those who has taken his time to read the document, said in a tweet Wednesday morning: "There are no figures in this document. There is nothing about $400 billion. There is nothing about Kish Island of Chines Forces to be deployed to Iran. There are only 10 proposals made of dreams and floral language about boosting cooperation between Iran and China."

The Rouhani administration had said while approving the document that China was going to make a $400 billion investment in Iran. Critics had said that Iran is going to hand over Kish Island in the Persian Gulf to the Chinese and allow deployment of Chinese forces in parts of the country.

During the past week, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Prince Reza Pahlavi, the strangest of bedfellows, voiced the most serious criticism about the "pact". The former said the Iranian nation will reject the it and the latter condemned it and criticized the Islamic Republic for "plundering the country" and for "allowing foreign troops to enter Iran."

On Wednesday morning former reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeqi tweeted: "Somebody should ask the other party to our 25-year pact why doesn't it pay its debts to us?" He was referring to billions of dollars in oil money Iran says China has not paid.

Sadeqi further asked: "If they cannot give us our money back, why we still trust them? And if they are unable to pay their debt, why are we signing a strategic pact with them?"

Meanwhile, Haqiqatnezhad who has been working on the Sino-Iranian relations for some time, wrote that there was "no contract" and that the paper is a "strategic document" which is different from a contract.

To make it clear, Haqiqatnezhad wrote: "The matter is quite straightforward. Is the Islamic Republic of Iran selling? Yes. Is anyone buying? No. Not even China."

For curious readers, the "final draft" of the document provided, and probably leaked by "The Supreme Secretariat of the Mechanism for the Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation between Iran and China," includes four pages of an introduction characterized by Iranian analysts as a "high school composition about cooperation," as well as three addenda titled: "Basic Objectives, the Main Areas of Cooperation, and Executive Measures" that repeat the same composition about the general benefits of cooperation in the areas of trade, tourism, energy and communication.

Leaking the document showed after all that no concessions to the Chinese were inscribed in the "pact"; at least not at this point.

In a nutshell, the document, when translated into good Chinese, includes Iran's needs and dreams. According to Haqiqatnezhad: "These dreams are not likely to come true, ever."