Amos Yadlin, the former IDF chief of Military Intelligence, expressed concern on Monday about a reported clause in the 25-year strategic cooperation mega-deal signed by Iran and China that includes a commitment to military cooperation, with joint training, research and intelligence sharing.
“One of the most worrying clauses in the agreement between Iran and China is the intelligence sharing,” the head of the Institute for National Security Studies told the Ynet news site.
The full details of the final agreement have not been released, but Yadlin said that with that clause, reported to be in a draft last year, “China is putting itself in a place that, until today, it had not been before.”
“On a fundamental level, China opposes an Iranian nuclear bomb, but on the other hand, it is not helping to stop Iran,” said Yadlin. “Iran, too, needs the political support which China has to stop the United States from pressuring it.”
“The Chinese understand that the Biden administration is not the Trump administration, and they can be much more aggressive,” he added.
The clause is detailed in a former draft of the deal, obtained by the New York Times last year, and calls for joint training and exercises, as well as cooperation on research and weapons development, as well as the sharing of intelligence.
Yadlin’s comments came after China and Iran signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on Saturday, a 25-year long strategic agreement between the two countries to address economic issues in Iran amid crippling US sanctions.
China is Iran’s leading trade partner and was one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil before then-US president Donald Trump reimposed sweeping unilateral sanctions in 2018 after abandoning a multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran.
The New York Times reported that China will invest some $400 billion in Iran in exchange for oil as part of the deal.
Alongside military cooperation, the deal covers a variety of economic activities from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations, according to the report.
The agreement could undermine US leverage over Iran ahead of expected negotiations and lessen American influence in the Middle East.
The Times report said Iran was prepared to host direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, further suggesting that US influence in the region could be waning.
The deal also supports tourism and cultural exchanges and comes on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Iran. The two countries have had warm relations and both took part in a joint naval exercise in 2019 with Russia in the northern Indian Ocean.
Reportedly, Iran and China have done some $20 billion in trade annually in recent years. That is down from nearly $52 billion in 2014, however, because of a decline in oil prices and US sanctions imposed in 2018, after Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Additionally, ongoing US sanctions against Iran could hamper its trade with China despite Saturday’s agreement.