Rumors have resurfaced that China will deploy 5,000 security forces to Iran to protect its investments, raising public concern over secrecy in dealings with Beijing.

Earlier this week, the issue of public concern over secrecy in the implementation of the 25-year strategic cooperation agreement signed in March 2021 was raised at a meeting of private sector business leaders at a meeting of Tehran Chamber of Commerce.

Iran hopes the agreement -- the contents of which have been kept secret at China's request according to Iranian officials -- will bring Chinese investments and ensure more diplomatic support from Beijing. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the launch of the deal in city of Wuxi in the eastern province of Jiangsu on January 14. Amir-Abdollahian has described the agreement as a "win-win" for both countries.

"Certain rumors cause concerns over the implementation of this deal. For instance, it's rumored that Chinese companies will not have to bid to get oil and gas projects, or that 5,000 Chinese security forces are going to come to Iran for the protection of Chinese staff, or that they will be granted the right to delay payments for two years," Reza Padidar, Chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee of Tehran Chamber of Commerce said at the meeting.

Padidar stressed that Iran needs investments but added that it is important to know how any Chinese presence in energy and infrastructures sectors will play out in Iran's development in the future. "Unfortunately, these are issues that are not seen [being discussed] in Iranian officials' negotiations with the Chinese side."

Ferial Mostofi, Chairwoman of the Money and Investment Committee of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, also said at the meeting that while cooperation deals with other countries is desirable, keeping the details of the cooperation deal with China secret causes concern. According to Mostofi, the Chamber has requested various authorities to provide information about the deal but has so far not received any response from them.

China's alleged intention to send 5,000 security forces to Iran as part of the Sino-Iranian strategic partnership was first mentioned by Petroleum Economist in September 2019. The British journal quoted an unnamed senior source closely connected to Iran's petroleum ministry as saying that China also wanted to send additional personnel to protect the eventual transit of oil, gas and petrochemicals from Iran to China, including through the Persian Gulf.

The rumored agreement to accept the presence of thousands of Chinese security forces in Iran, as well as other rumors such as a plan to lease the Persian Gulf Island of Kish to China in return for an investment of $400 billion in Iran over the course of 25 years have been going around in Iranian media and social media since 2019.

Referring to these rumors, Eghtesad Online economic website in an article entitled "What Is the Truth About Presence of 5,000 Chinese Security Forces in Iran" on Thursday recounted the concerns by the officials of Tehran Chamber of Commerce and said withholding information pertaining to the economic part of the deal which covers a wide range of areas of cooperation is stoking concerns.

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