September 27, 2021

ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN: Iran Was Offically Admitted As A Full Member Of The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) On Friday September 17th Thanks To Russia's Endorsement.

Breitbart News
written by Gabrielle Reyes
Wednesday September 15, 2021

Iran is allegedly on track to gain full membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the near future, according to the observations of a Chinese researcher published by China’s state-run Global Times on Tuesday.

“Moscow has called to endorse Tehran’s bid for membership in the SCO,” Tian Wenlin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, wrote in the Global Times op-ed.

“And during the phone conversation between Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on September 3, Abdollahian thanked Wang for supporting Iran’s permanent membership in the SCO, according to the Tehran Times,” he noted. The Tehran Times published its account of the telephone conversation between China and Iran’s top diplomats on September 4.

Tian referred first to comments by Special Envoy of the Russian President for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyor Khakimov on September 9. According to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency, the envoy said “Moscow expressed hope” that the SCO would decide on Iran’s admission to the group at its next annual summit, scheduled to take place in Dushanbe from September 16-17. Dushanbe is the capital of SCO member-state Tajikistan.

Iran’s state-owned news site, Press TV, published Khakimov’s September 9 remarks on September 14, citing TASS:
There is a certain procedure stipulated in the SCO documents. We expect that in Dushanbe, the Council of Heads of State will make a decision on the commencement of Iran’s admission to the SCO, which means the launching of the negotiation process to agree on the documents according to which Iran will accede to the legal and contractual framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Press TV further recalled on Tuesday that Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi “thanked Moscow for launching the process of Iran’s membership in the SCO” during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 27.

“Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov also discussed the issue of Iran’s SCO membership during their phone talk last month,” according to the Iranian news site.

Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan told Sputnik on August 23 Moscow supports Tehran’s bid for full membership to the SCO.

“We have close, and on a number of international and regional issues, coinciding positions. In connection with the SCO summit scheduled for September of this year in Dushanbe, I would like to confirm that Russia supports Iran’s application for full membership in this organization,” Dzhagaryan told Sputnik, a Russian state-run news site.

Raeisi spoke on the phone with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on August 18. The two heads of state touched upon the issue of SCO membership, with Xi providing promising indications of Tehran’s future status. During their conversation, Raeisi “thanked China for backing Iran’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” according to a Press TV report published later that same day.

The SCO is a security bloc uniting several nations across Central and South Asia. Russia and China lead the security alliance, which also organizes political and economic cooperation between member states. Observers view the SCO as an Eastern counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.). SCO permanent members include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and India. The organization has granted “observer status” to Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, and Belarus since its founding in Shanghai in 2001.

Iran has been an SCO observer state since 2005 and applied for full membership to the SCO for the first time in 2008. The country’s volatile political landscape and years under U.N. sanctions have so far foiled Tehran’s efforts to gain an official seat at the SCO table. A statement released by the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security, Ali Shamkhani, on August 11 suggested Tehran had recently made significant headway in its 13-year-long attempt to penetrate the SCO’s membership barriers.

“Fortunately, the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the SCO have been removed and Iran’s membership will be finalized,” Ali wrote in a Twitter statement, as quoted by TASS.

Beijing and Moscow have been wary of admitting Tehran as a full SCO member for over a decade, as the Islamic Republic remains a relatively unstable state. Iran allegedly threatened military action against its two biggest foes, the U.S. and Israel, earlier this year. Should Tehran gain full admission to the SCO and find itself in a future military conflict with one or both of its most notable enemies, SCO leaders China and Russia might find themselves obligated to defend Iran in accordance with the bloc’s military alliance. While the scenario remains hypothetical, the SCO’s leaders could morph into a modern-day version of the Axis powers of WWII if they elevate Iran’s membership status in the coming months.
The Soufan Center Org
written by Staff
Friday September 24, 2021

Recently the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) commemorated its twentieth anniversary and convened its twenty-first Meeting of SCO Council of Heads of State in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The SCO is a multilateral security-focused forum co-led by Russia and China. Additional members include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; in 2017, India and Pakistan acquired full membership status and just recently, Iran was recently accepted as the SCO’s eighth full member. Other countries, like Afghanistan, Mongolia, and Turkey enjoy observer status. Still, the primary focus of the gathering was recent events in Afghanistan. Despite its stated goals of fostering regional cooperation on security and counterterrorism, and organizing routine joint exercises, the SCO has been criticized and dismissed for lacking teeth and for simply being a platform for China and Russia to challenge Western-dominated security partnerships rather than strengthening regional security. But some experts and analysts suggest the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and imminent security concerns, may present the organization with important opportunities to boost its profile. Many structural and historical tensions exist between member states—some that a Taliban-led Afghanistan may exacerbate.

In his remarks, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the start of the process for Iran to acquire full membership status in the SCO. This comes on the heels of a fifteen-year process of Iran’s bid for SCO membership status—an endeavor that has faced serious obstacles, including UN sanctions. Still, Iran’s inclusion this year did not necessarily come as a surprise, especially given Tehran’s improved bilateral relationships with both Beijing and Moscow over the past several years. The relationship between China and Iran was solidified by the twenty-five-year comprehensive strategic partnership signed between the two countries last year. However, it is worth noting that due to technical and legal processes, Iran’s new membership status in the SCO can take up to two years to complete. Even so, this is likely perceived as an important diplomatic win for Iran, as well as an opportunity for the country to secure economic deals that can bring some relief from U.S. sanctions. For example, on the sidelines of the SCO, Iranian president, Ibrahim Raisi, and Tajik President, Emomali Rahmon, agreed to an annual bilateral trade target of $500 million—a tenfold increase from present day exchange levels of $57 million.

For the SCO, the inclusion of Iran as a full member is critical to its goal of countering potential security challenges stemming from Afghanistan. One of the sideline meetings that garnered the most attention was between Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan—crucial players in a post-U.S. withdrawal Afghanistan. While it’s unlikely that all SCO member states will recognize the legitimacy of the Taliban—as exemplified by Tajikistan’s vocal criticism of the current regime in Kabul—Beijing and Moscow have both adopted a pragmatic stance recognizing the need to work with the Taliban to safeguard their security, political, and economic interests.

Indeed, the SCO’s primary focus since its founding has been focused on security and stability in Eurasia—primarily through multilateral counterterrorism engagements via the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), founded in 2002 to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism. As such, the key focus of this year’s SCO summit was the situation in Afghanistan, as the U.S. withdrawal creates both opportunities and challenges for SCO members. Members fear that spillover violence from Afghanistan will destabilize the region and that the country may again become a safe haven for terrorist organizations. In addition, if the SCO and its leadership—Russia and China—will be instrumental in supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan, the organization will likely shed some of its image as a toothless entity and help China promote its much-desired status as a responsible regional power. Beijing’s propaganda apparatus and government officials have been quick to criticize the U.S. withdrawal and argue that Washington needs to take responsibility for the ensuing chaos. Other incentives to stabilize Afghanistan, especially for China, include the prospect of connectivity—like linking Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—and potentially reaping the economic benefits of natural resource extraction—Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth is estimated between $1-3 trillion—though these are more medium to long-term goals in nature.

There are still myriad obstacles that could hinder the SCO from playing its desired role in stabilizing Afghanistan. While China has pressed the Taliban to commit to prohibit training and funding for what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) perceives as terrorists in exchange for economic assistance, there is no guarantee that such a deal will materialize. The Taliban may change its stance, or simply be unable to contain every individual and organization that Beijing deems a threat. In addition, given the recent Pakistani Taliban attacks on Chinese nationals, it is clear that regional instability will embolden terrorists beyond those in Afghanistan. Moreover, there are clear tensions caused by an Islamic Emirate on China’s western border next to Xinjiang, presenting a long-term conflict of interest between China’s relationship with Islam and the Taliban’s commitment to governing based on sharia. Lastly, there are geopolitical concerns between the two Eurasian hegemons that could undermine cooperation efforts. While Sino-Russian relations are at an all-time high, there is evidence of increased Chinese power-projection in Central Asia under the guise of counterterrorism—a posture that infringes on Russia’s perceived traditional sphere of influence. Instability and terrorism emanating from Afghanistan may further incentivize China to continue down this path, appearing to contradict the US ambition of challenging Chinese influence and focusing resources on geopolitical competition through the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is clear that the marriages of convenience between SCO members are not without their troubles—especially now that the United States no longer has a military presence in the region that serves as a common foil.
UPDATE 9/27/21 at 2:02pm: Added info below.

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