IR Iran Becomes a Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

TEHRAN (Shana) -- The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, as the host of the 22nd SCO Summit, announced Iran's permanent membership in this organization in his speech on Friday 16 September 2022. The Islamic Republic of Iran became a permanent member of the SCO at its 21st Summit in the presence of 12 permanent and observer members.

Since the early years of the establishment of this organization, Iran's efforts to become a member initiated, and in 2005, Iran was accepted as an observer member of the organization. During the last 16 years, a lot of efforts were made by Tehran to become a member of this organization. Officials of the 13th administration also consider this event as a great opportunity for our country. According to the government spokesperson's tweet, the bill "Addition of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the SCO" will be submitted to the Iran’s parliament to pass legal formalities after its approval by the government.

The SCO at a glance

The (SCO) was officially established in June 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Despite the official announcement of this body in the early 2000s, the main basis for the establishment of this organization should be seen in the competition of super powers over the Central Asian region in the era after the end of the Cold War. On April 26, 1996, the heads of states of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met in Shanghai, China, under the name of "Shanghai 5", with the aim of building security trust in their borders, and finally, after 5 annual meetings, in 2001, they officially announced the establishment of  the SCO.

What does SCO do?

The SCO was established as a multilateral association to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

The main objectives of the SCO are to (i) strengthen relations among member states; (ii) promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade, scientific-technical, cultural, and educational spheres as well as in energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection; (iv) safeguard regional peace, ... .

The most powerful member in the SCO, and Why?

In the SCO, Russia and China are considered to be the most powerful stakeholders in the organization. Both have their own geopolitical interest that they are pursuing, which is focused more on security threats than economic deals within the organization.

Civilian organization to counter American influence

The SCO was established without military goals, in the form of multilateral security, economic and cultural cooperation, with the aim of establishing a balance against the influence of America and NATO in the region. In fact, being a member of the SCO since its establishment until now, unlike the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), does not create an obligation for the members with regard to military cooperation issues.

In fact, the SCO is one of the few bodies or organizations in which Western countries do not have any involvement in the structure and internal decisions of its members.

The difficult path of Iran's membership in the SCO

Despite having good relations with the founding and member countries of the SCO, Iran passed through a relatively difficult path: from being an observer member to becoming a permanent member. During the years after 2005, the discussion of accepting Iran's permanent membership in the SCO has been discussed for many years, but until July 2015 and after signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Tehran and the 5+1 countries, international sanctions and Security Council resolutions prevented Iran’s membership in the SCO. There were legal and political restrictions against Iran's joining this institution. But after the approval of Resolution 2231 in the United Nations Security Council, the first serious step for Iran's membership in the SCO was taken and the big legal obstacle was removed. In the meantime, Iran's close relationship with the permanent member countries of the SCO was also of great importance and it seems to have brought the basis of trust between the parties.

With this in mind, in 2017, Iran's attempt to become a permanent member of the SCO, despite the agreement of all members, remained fruitless due to Tajikistan's opposition citing various security and political reasons. However, recently Dushanbe reacted positively toward Tehran's permanent membership and agreed to accept Iran's permanent membership. Finally, on 17 September, 2021 (26 Shahrivar 1400), Iran was accepted as a permanent member of the SCO as the ninth country.

Although Iran was accepted as the ninth main member of this organization at the 2021 meeting in Tajikistan, the commitments of permanent membership were officially signed at the Samarkand Summit. Since the membership of Iran as an observer in the SCO, three administrations in a row took office in the country. In fact, the observer's membership began with the ninth administration, and during this period, the senior officials of our country had repeatedly asked other members to agree to the permanent membership of Iran in the SCO.

World’s energy majors

As the SCO member and observer countries are among the world’s largest energy producers and consumers, this organization can establish close cooperation among its members in the field of energy exports and imports, and it can have a great impact on the world’s energy management and the world energy market conditions.

Iran, as one of the permanent members of the SCO, can take advantage of the benefits available in the field of oil and gas exports to the members. In fact, the sale and return of money from energy exports can be significantly facilitated. Of course, this situation highly depends on the removal of international sanctions against Iran. In the current situation of extensive Western sanctions, even the major companies in the SCO will not welcome economic cooperation and partnership with Iran.

The Special Demographic and Export Potentials

The SCO member and observer countries account for about half of the world's population and one fourth of the world's landmass. In the first stage, this issue can economically create a large market for members to cooperate with each other and facilitate and strengthen their commercial and economic cooperation with each other. In the next stage, such demographic and territorial potential can be very effective in altering power equations and creating a balance of power at the global level.

According to these interpretations, Iran's permanent membership in the SCO can be very positive and fruitful, particularly in terms of enhancing the level of non-oil exports. In the current situation, Iran's non-oil exports to East Asian and Central Asian countries is not considerable and do not exceed several billion dollars, but Iran's permanent membership in this organization can significantly increase Iran's commercial income. However, it is noteworthy that the removal of sanctions against Iran will be a prerequisite for such an event for Iran's economy and exports.

 Iran and World Trade Organization

Although there are pros and cons regarding Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), Iran has been applying to join the WTO for many years, and Iran's membership as an observer member was previously approved, but Iran's permanent membership case has not come to fruition for various reasons. In the meantime, regardless of the US sanctions and obstacles on the way of Iran's membership, the issue of the non-compliance of Iran's economic structures with the WTO rules and the lack of grounds for joining this organization has been always raised.

 To warp up, it could be argued that while aborting the efforts made by the US to make Iran politically and economically isolated, Iran's membership in the SCO will definitely lead to strengthening infrastructure capabilities, reforming structures to make the economy more competitive, and rebuilding laws based on compliance with the requirements of the SCO, and this would eventually pave the ground for Iran to join the WTO.

By Ehsan Jenabi

Courtesy of Iran Petroleum

News Code 463389

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