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ASIA TIMES - 6 November 2004: TEHRAN - Speaking of business as unusual. A mere two months ago, the news of a China-Kazakhstan pipeline agreement, worth US$3.5 billion, raised some eyebrows in the world press, some hinting that China's economic foreign policy may be on the verge of a new leap forward.
A clue to the fact that such anticipation may have totally understated the case was last week's signing of a mega-gas deal between Beijing and Tehran worth $100 billion. Billed as the "deal of century" by various commentators, this agreement is likely to increase by another $50 billion to $100 billion, bringing the total close to $200 billion, when a similar oil agreement, currently being negotiated, is inked not too far from now.
For a United States increasingly pointing at China as the next biggest challenge to its Pax Americana, the Iran-China energy cooperation cannot but be interpreted as an ominous sign of emerging new trends in an area considered vital to US national interests.
But, then again, this cuts both ways, that is, the deal should, logically speaking, stimulate others who may still consider Iran untrustworthy or too radical to enter into big projects on a long-term basis. Iran's biggest foreign agreement prior to this gas agreement with China was a long-term $25 billion gas deal with Turkey, which has encountered snags, principally over the price, recently, compared with Iran's various trade agreements with Spain, Italy and others, typically with a life span of five to seven years.