An ultra-conservative newspaper in Iran claimed Wednesday that ex-parliament speaker Ali Larijani had resigned as the coordinator of a 25-year pact with China.
Farhikhtegan, a daily affiliated with the Islamic Azad University, said Larijani, who was appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, preferred to allow the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) to shape Iran’s economic relations with Beijing.
While Larijani, 64, has neither confirmed nor denied the report, it appears that his long political career may be over. He has served in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), as head of state broadcasting, as minister of culture, and as Iran’s top security official.
Farhikhtegan analyzed Larijani’s demise in terms of a simple dichotomy between west and east. The Rouhani administration had downplayed relations with "the east," the paper said, and instead had focused on efforts to improve links with Western countries, despite the imposition of United States ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions in 2018.
The Chinese government had not cooperated with the Rouhani administration due to its "coldness" towards China and "pro-west outlook in foreign policy,” Farhikhtegan explained. This “pro-west outlook,” the newspaper argued, had led to Rouhani emphasis on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
"The Chinese during this time were prepared to cooperate with the Islamic Republic, but not with Rouhani's administration," Farhikhtegan wrote, claiming this led to Khamenei's decision to put Larijani in charge of developing the cooperation agreement.
The newspaper attached little importance to China being a JCPOA signatory and a supporter of its revival. Nor to the cooperation agreement being signed during the Rouhani administration.
Back in April, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied a claim that China had insisted on involvinga designated representative of Khamenei in the talks over the pact said and that he himself had suggested Larijani − a Rouhani ally in securing parliamentary support for the JCPOA − as a coordinator.
The strategic pact, the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, is linked to China’s Belt and Road strategy, which is expanding Beijing’s trading links across Asia to Europe, and envisages increasing Chinese investment in Iran over 25 years as Beijing continues as Tehran’s main oil customer.
Larijani has remained largely silent since the constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, did not approve him as a candidate in June’s presidential elections after it was reported he had a daughter living in the United States.
After Larijani was rejected by the council, Khamenei acknowledged during a televised speech that some disqualifications had been unfair. He referred obliquely to allegations made against family members of some candidates that "turned out not to be true."
Larijani supporters hoped in vain that Khamenei would intervene to reinstate Larijani, who hails from an influential Shia Muslim clerical family, as he did with two reformists in 2005.