Iran opposes US by joining Shanghai Cooperation Organization - analysis

The SCO includes countries in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and China but no Western countries.

 Shanghai Cooperation Organization. (photo credit: FLICKR)
Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Iran has been focused on its progress in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in recent weeks.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian praised Iran’s decision to move forward with an accession bill to the SCO, saying a recent vote on the bill “shows the determination and seriousness of our country to develop regional, international and economic cooperation and strengthen its view of Asia.”

The SCO includes China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. These are important countries because Russia and China tend to position themselves at odds with the US.

This is increasingly true with Russia after the Ukraine invasion. Russia and the West appear to have completely destroyed their relations, and Iran would like to swoop in and benefit.

 Iranian flag is seen at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as Albania cuts ties with Iran and orders diplomats to leave over cyberattack, in Tirana, Albania, September 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA) Iranian flag is seen at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as Albania cuts ties with Iran and orders diplomats to leave over cyberattack, in Tirana, Albania, September 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA)

Iran calls this “multilateralism.”

“The SCO seeks to assist in providing better answers to the problems faced by member states as well as the region,” Iranian Ambassador to China Mohammad Keshavarzzadeh said in an interview with the Chinese People’s Daily published online on Saturday.

There was great “significance of Iran joining the bloc by pointing out that the organization includes members from Central and Eastern Asia in addition to other regions, and this can give Iran a platform to make overtures with all of these countries,” he said.

The reason Iran likes the SCO is that it views it as an organization that has no Western members.

“On a question that some Western nations equate the SCO with NATO, Keshavarzzadeh said such a comparison is wrong because the SCO is an inclusive bloc and not a military alliance,” according to a report in the Tehran Times, a pro-regime publication that reflects Iran’s stance.

How will joining SCO benefit Iran?

An article at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Iran joining the SCO would bring some benefits to Tehran, but there are also hurdles.

“Iranian officials still maintain that officially joining the SCO—which is slated to occur by April 2023—will bring benefits in the economic, commercial, and strategic sectors.

Tehran Times

“Iranian officials still maintain that officially joining the SCO – which is slated to occur by April 2023 – will bring benefits in the economic, commercial, and strategic sectors,” the report said. “Furthermore, from the perspective of the SCO itself, Iran’s political cooperation may be useful for the organization’s relations with the Islamic world.”

Trade between Iran and SCO countries surpassed $651 billion last year, the report said. But Iran will need to modernize its infrastructure to take advantage of any new opportunities. Also, the new China-Iran partnership will take a while to be realized in terms of benefits for Tehran.