A recent report published on Al Mayadeen’s website highlights the significance of Iran’s accession to full membership status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a powerful international body that just grew even bigger.
The report suggests that Iran’s admission into the SCO is part of a broader global shift to a new world order in which the Asian region plays a central role.
Source: Al Mayadeen (Website)
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Iran is a Full Member of the “Shanghai Organization” … Timing and Economic Importance
The acceptance of Iran as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at this time indicates(positive) signs (for the Islamic Republic), as it coincides with changes inside and outside the country. (These) changes appear to be in (Iran’s) favor, especially after it broke the US economic embargo by signing a strategic partnership agreement with China.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit began today in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the 20th anniversary of the foundation of this organization. The (SCO) defines itself as an international political, economic and security organization with a regional character represented by the Eurasia region. It was founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the year 2001.
In 2005, Iran, India and Pakistan joined the organization as observer members, and in 2017, India and Pakistan became permanent members. Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus are currently observer member states of the organization, while the countries of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Nepal, Cambodia, Turkey and Sri Lanka applied to join the organization in 2015.
However, the role of this organization and its political influence extend beyond the Eurasia region to other regions of the Asian continent, and even beyond (Asia’s) borders, given the economic and military weight enjoyed by its members. It is also gradually expanding outside its narrow scope by including other countries from the Central Asian region, the most important of which are India and Pakistan.
Iran as a Full Member of the Shanghai Organization
In another expansionary step with great significance at various levels, the Organization announced at its meeting today – through the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping – its acceptance to grant Iran full membership after (Tehran) had been an observer member for years. The Chinese president said: “Iran will be considered a full member of the Shanghai Organization at today’s meeting.”
The Significance of the Timing of the Membership
Granting Iran full membership within the Shanghai Organization at this time seems remarkable as it comes after:
1) The China-Iran strategic agreement, which was signed in Tehran on March 27 (2021), after a regional tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that included the Gulf states and Turkey. The Strategic Partnership Agreement, as it was called, is a 25-year agreement between the two countries covering the political, economic, military and industrial fields.
This agreement serves both countries, as it guarantees the global economic giant (China) further expansion in its role and establishment of its presence on the international scene, especially in the countries that the United States has placed on the list of “forbidden regions” upon which harsh economic sanctions are imposed. It also gives Iran an opportunity to liberate itself from these sanctions and sell its oil products which the US not only refuses to buy, but also prevents other countries from buying by threatening them with sanctions, in an attempt to put economic pressure on Iran to change its political positions.
(According to this agreement), in return for its exported oil, Iran can import what it needs in terms of industrial equipment, machinery and expertise, and prepare (develop) its ports and infrastructure with Chinese assistance. (This step) allows China to use these facilities to export its products via land and sea towards the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and on to the European continent in the north, and Africa in the south.
2) The complete and rushed US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country that has been occupied by the United States and its NATO allies for 20 years.
Afghanistan is located within the borders of the Eurasian region, between the two major countries in the world, China and Russia. The United States sought to prevent the rapprochement (between these two countries) and impede their economic growth, especially China’s, by cutting off the routes for its land and sea exports to the West, and threatening its security by igniting wars and security disturbances.
It is worth noting that it is no coincidence that the organization was formed only 4 months before the date of the American invasion of Afghanistan, and to the sound of the drums of war that the US and Britain started after the September 11 attacks that toppled the World Trade Center in New York and targeted the US Department of Defense (Pentagon).
The US role in obstructing the work of the Shanghai Organization and the growth of China’s economic standing was demonstrated by the rush of the “Taliban” movement leaders – which quickly and gradually seized all the Afghan regions in conjunction with the departure of the occupying (US) forces – to visit China, meet officials in its Foreign Ministry, emphasize China’s pivotal role in the reconstruction of the country exhausted by occupation and conflicts, and reassure (Beijing) that they will not use Afghan territory to target the security of other countries.
3) The election of a new president of Iran last June.
The (former) head of the judiciary and a strongman, Ibrahim Raisi won by a large margin of votes over his remaining rivals, this after the withdrawal of the most famous candidates in his favor, one of which was the former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
Since the beginning of his term, Raisi has sought to enhance his country’s presence and position in the world by strengthening its relations at the regional level, and benefiting from all its capabilities, foremost of which is its geographical location. During his speech at the (Shanghai) summit, the Iranian president stated that “Iran can be a bridge for Eurasia linking the north to the south.”
Before heading to Tajikistan, Raisi said that his country’s participation in the summit “will focus on our economic and cultural relations with Asian countries,” stressing that “cooperation with neighboring countries and the region is a top priority of Iran’s foreign policy.” Last August, Raisi declared that strengthening Iran’s relations with Russia and China, the two main members of the organization, was one of the priorities of his foreign policy.
Creating Economic Opportunities for Iran and Liberating it from the US Embargo
Of the three previous points, the strategic agreement between Iran and China – Beijing forming the most prominent pillar of the organization – is the most important thing that contributed to Iran’s full membership. What occurred appears to be nothing other than the expansion of the official international recognition of Iran’s regional role and presence; a greater facilitation (for Iran) to help it get through the (all-out) US embargo; and the creation of opportunities for Iran in different fields by China and Russia.
President Vladimir Putin stated during his speech at the summit that his country “supports the decision submitted for approval by the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization regarding the start of procedures for Iran’s admission to the organization,” stressing the mutual importance of its admission by saying that this would “increase the international influence of the organization.”
The first Iranian comment came from the spokesman for the head of the Iranian Parliament, Nizamuddin Mousavi, who said in an interview with ISNA that what we are witnessing is “the establishment of a new world order, where the Eastern Power Quartet (Russia, China, India, Iran) brings together some of the most important international players in this new world order.” He added that “Iran’s admission into this organization, despite Washington’s opposition, proves that the era of unilateral policies is over, and that we are witnessing the establishment of a new world order.”
In economic terms, Mousavi said that his country’s admission “means reaching a market of 3 billion people, and this is a great opportunity that requires a roadmap so that we can benefit from it in the best way.”
This accession was preceded by the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states, several rounds of which were conducted in the Austrian capital Vienna in the last months of the term of former President Hassan Rouhani. There was talk of future rounds of negotiations after the formation of the first Iranian government under President Ibrahim Raisi. The accession (of Iran to SCO membership) also came after the positive visit of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to Tehran, and his meeting with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.
All the foregoing factors contribute to the reassurance that Iran feels at the beginning of Ibrahim Raisi presidency, and brings the country closer to an international position that (Tehran) seeks despite the obstacles posed by its enemies. However, to hold on to these gains and take advantage of the new opportunities available, Iran will face major challenges (in the road ahead).