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Debate Among Iran Political Figures Over Pact With China

While there are every indications in the Iranian press and in the statements made by officials that Tehran is excited over the prospects of "indirect talks" with the United states in Vienna on Tuesday, they are still having afterthoughts about the recent controversial pact with China.

In an interview with a local website published on Sunday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif strongly defended the "strategic cooperation" agreement and said that Iran's foreign policy will be "dependent" on Russia and China for the next decade. He emphasized that China is seriously denting US power and influence and a "power transfer is in process."

Reformist daily newspaper Sharq in Tehran featured two interviews with US-based former Iranian diplomat Hossein Musavian and reformist political analyst Abbas Abdi in its Sunday edition.

Musavian drew attention to the need for a high-level strategic foreign policy roadmap, and Abdi argued that making a pact with only one bloc cannot get Iran out of its long-standing foreign policy deadlock.

Meanwhile, IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim on Sunday ran a major commentary that accused pro-US politicians in Tehran of launching "an all-out attack" on the 25-year cooperation document with China. 

In his interview with Sharq, Abdi defended balanced relations with all other countries and said Iran's way of defining itself as a country that is different from the rest of the world is "wrong." There is no assurance that Iran could be an effective world player if it refuses to play in the playground laid out by the world, he said.

Abdi added that the nuclear deal with the West was a good first step for Iran's integration with the international community, but later developments made this impossible.

Abdi further added that "for their own interests, all other countries are monitoring the pact with China and the fact that it has not been ratified by the Iranian Parliament as called for by the Iranian constitutional law. But this is just an understanding over a roadmap."

"On the other hand, there are so many political divides in Iran that the government's political rivals would have revealed any possible major breach of the constitution," said Abdi. However, he stressed that political alignment with a single bloc has never been a good solution for any country in the world.

Musavian on the other hand, said that "the signing of the 25-year pact with China was an essential decision Iran should have made earlier."

Meanwhile, he also defended the aura of secrecy around the pact in the interview that was originally done by the semi-official news agency ISNA and was re-run by Sharq newspaper. 

Explaining why Iran needs this long term accord, Musavian said: "The pact revealed the failure of the United States' maximum pressure policy and at the same time proved that Iran is not isolated in the region and the world."

Contrary to Abdi's view, Musavian, a close ally of President Hassan Rouhani, claimed that the accord with China has brought about a balance in Iran's relations with the world that is in compliance with Tehran's "neither East, nor West" policy.

Referring to the Iranian people's doubts and sensitivities toward the pact with China which has been reflected in several protest demonstrations in Iranian cities, Musavian said "These sensitivities are good and the nation should be sensitive to developments that affect its fate."

However, he acknowledged that "We should understand that various countries' act based on their national interests and we cannot expect Russia or China or any other country to sacrifice their own interests to serve ours."

Meanwhile, in an attempt to reassure Iranians that the Islamic Republic has not compromised Iran’s interests and has not handed over Iranian ports or harbors to China, Tasnim published a table that claims 21 other countries have allowed China to run their ports and harbors.

Tasnim further claimed that the United States is angry about Iran's cooperation with China because it "nullifies the impact of US sanctions."

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