Iran President Hassan Rouhani at a Cabinet meeting, Tehran, July 8, 2020

Iran’s Rouhani Government is mounting an intense campaign to push back hardline opposition to a 25-year “roadmap” with China.

Presidential Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi said on Wednesday, “The plan for strategic cooperation between Iran and China will be designed on equal footing, on the basis of common views, and with the purpose of supporting multilateralism.”

He declared that the deal offers “a prospect of mid-term and long-term interaction between the two countries in various fields and secures the strategic interests of both countries”.

Hardline MPs challenged Foreign Secretary Mohammad Javad Zarif in Parliament on Sunday, complaining about a lack of consultation and subservience to Beijing.

See Iran’s Foreign Minister Clashes with Hardline MPs

Foreign Ministry, Rouhani Invoke “Enemies”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tried to counter the objections on Wednesday:

The preliminary draft of the document has been prepared with the participation of specialized institutions from the two countries and is currently undergoing the negotiation stage. Naturally, after finalization of the negotiations, the document will be submitted to the representatives of people in the Parliament for legal procedures.”

He tried to garner support by pointing at the Trump Administration, citing a “hostile and nervous” reaction from the State Department: “Enemies…will make every effort for the failure of these negotiations and lack of success of the document.”

He rejected criticisms over a Chinese lease on Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf, Beijing’s monopoly of purchase of oil at low prices, or the deployment of armed forces: “Fulfillment of Iran’s national interests has been the only guiding principle for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in devising the strategic document.”

But in a sign of nerves, Mousavi called on the media not to publish any purported versions of the draft agreement.

Without referring specifically to the China deal, President Hassan Rouhani said “enemies, above all the US and Israel”, were trying to cause discord.

At a Cabinet session, he implicitly referred to the tension in Parliament, “The administration always favors cordial and brotherly relations with the other power branches within the framework of the Constitution, and will continue this policy.”

The President said there was “no good time for disputes” amid pressure from US sanctions and the Coronavirus pandemic, with cases resurging throughout Iran.