IRAN’S full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation may have flown under the radar when announced last month – but the move should worry Tehran’s adversaries, experts have said.
Iran was finally allowed to join the pact after years of bidding to be a full member.
It will now join the Eurasian security, political and economic alliance and sit at the same table as Russia, China, India and several nations in Central Asia.
The pact now encompasses 20 per cent of the world’s GDP as well as two-fifths of the population. It’s a powerful anti-Western alliance that Iran had been desperate to join.
“Viewed in terms of the emerging new world order, Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is massive news,” Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam of SOAS University told Redaction Report.
“The SCO must be seen as a Eurasian formation which will play an increasingly important role between Europe and Asia, both in terms of economic integration, but also security.
“I think there is a growing understanding among the current political elites ruling the United States, certainly President Biden, that the SCO plus Iran, yields yet another reconfiguration of world politics.
“The days of US hegemony are truly over, and the fall of Kabul to the Taliban may have been the most vivid symbolic manifestation of that new reality.”
Their admission came just weeks after the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, leading some experts to suggest that Tehran may be keeping a pragmatic eye on its border.
Dr Adib-Moghaddam added: “Iran is very wary of the Taliban, and the threat of extremism and drug traficking on its eastern border with Afghanistan.
“Another major argument of What is Iran? has been, that the country primarily seeks stability and that it moved away from the revolutionary slogans of the Khomeini decade towards rather more pragmatic foreign policies.
“Iran views itself increasingly as an Eurasian power integrated into larger alliance patterns that involve major power such as Russia and China, but also emerging global players from the “Global South” in Latin America.
“If the Taliban prove to be amenable to a new strategic consensus, then it is very likely that Iran will engage them within the newly configured multilateral networks that the SCO opens up further.”
Questions have also been raised over why Iran wasn’t allowed in the SCO as a full member prior to this.
Sanctions played their part – few countries, even China, would have wanted to get involved in violating Washington’s economic actions aimed at Iran – especially while the UN was also doing so. Once UN sanctions ended late last year, however, it was easier for member nations of the SCO to dismiss the US’ punitive measures as unilateral, and simply bypass them.
“Other member states retained a “wait-and-see” attitude towards the accession of Iran,” Dr Adib-Moghaddam said.
“In the end, the geo-political and geo-economic importance of Iran was simply too central to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s North-South-Corridor to keep the country out of the organisation.
“If the SCO wanted to play an even more important role in world politics, then Iran must have been considered a major asset to that end.”
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Dipl. Pol. (Hamburg), MPhil, PhD (Cantab)
is a Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS.
He is the author of “What is Iran? Domestic Politics and International Relations in Five Musical Pieces”, published by Cambridge University Press as a part of the influential “The Global Middle East” book series.
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