Win-win cooperation between Iran, SCO and obstacles ahead 

September 15, 2021 - 21:15

TEHRAN - The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit is scheduled for September 16-17 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

It seems that one of the important agendas of the meeting is to examine the agreement of the member states to start the process of reviewing Iran's membership in this important regional organization as a permanent member.

At the invitation of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and the current chairman of the SCO, Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi scheduled to attend the summit. A political and economic delegation will accompany the president in the official visit to Tajikistan.
The Tajik Foreign Ministry said in an official statement on Tuesday that the Iranian and Tajik presidents would have a special meeting during the three-day visit to the country, which is in fact the first foreign visit by Raisi as the new Iranian president. The two sides would exchange views on a wide range of issues. The meeting will take place with the participation of other officials from the two countries.

At the end of the meeting, the two sides are expected to sign a joint statement on bilateral relations and a package of new cooperation documents, the Tajik Foreign Ministry added.
According to the plan, the president of Iran will probably meet and consult with some of the participating presidents on the sidelines of the summit.

 Iran and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization 

The SCO was established in 2001 by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with the aim of balancing multilateral security, economic and cultural cooperation aiming at balancing U.S. and NATO influence in the region. 

Mongolia joined the organization as an observer member in 2004 and a year later Iran, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and Belarus joined the SCO as observers.

India and Pakistan also became permanent members of the organization in 2017. Thus, the SCO currently has eight permanent members, namely China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. And four countries of Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are observer members. Six countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka are also its negotiating partners.

The SCO permanent and non-permanent members are the world's largest producers and consumers of energy, with an area of about a quarter of the earth's land surface and about half of the world's population, with strong potential to balance power in a multipolar world, ISNA said in a commentary on Wednesday.

Reviewing the latest developments in Afghanistan as an observer member seems to be one of the most important agendas of the summit, although Afghanistan has no representative in the summit and it is unlikely that the Taliban have been invited to participate in the meeting.
What distinguishes this summit from the previous ones is the beginning of the study of Iran's permanent membership at the SCO. 
According to the published news, 8 permanent member countries are expected to comment on Iran's full membership and start the process of Iran's membership if all permanent members agree on it. The process may take some years. The process of accepting India and Pakistan started in 2014 and it took about three years for the two countries to become permanent members.

Therefore, it should be noted that the admission process in this organization is not a one-step process and a special procedure has been foreseen in the SCO documents in this regard. In fact, a yes vote by all members means the beginning of the negotiation process for an agreement on the documents according to which Iran will join the legal and contractual framework of the organization.
During consultations, Iran seems to have been able to obtain the consent of member states, especially the influential countries. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, recently announced that the political obstacles to Iran's membership in the SCO have been removed and Iran's membership will be finalized through technical formalities.

"Political obstacles to Iran's membership in the Shanghai Agreement have been removed and Iran's membership will be finalized through technical formalities," Shamkhani tweeted last month after talks with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. 

Russia's ambassador to Iran, Levan Dzhagaryan, recently told RIA Novosti that Moscow supports Iran's application for membership in the Shanghai organization because the positions of Iran and Russia are close on some regional and international issues.   

Bkhtyvr Khakimov, special representative of the President of Russia in the SCO, also has said Moscow expects that the leaders of the organization take decision on beginning the process of accepting Tehran at the organization's summit in Dushanbe.

Unlike 2017, the government of Tajikistan, which has been chairing the SCO since 2020, seems to have a positive view of Iran's membership.
In June, Nizamuddin Zahedi, the ambassador of the Republic of Tajikistan to Tehran, said, "The president of Tajikistan is one of the first presidents of the member states to propose Iran's main membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but the acceptance of these cases and decisions in the organization are done with the coordination of other countries and with the consent of all member states." 

He pointed out: "The principle of admission in the Shanghai organization is general consent. Therefore, this issue is present in the programs of the organization, i.e. Iran joining as a main member, and if other member states of the organization are ready to accept Iran, Tajikistan will support the general consent in this issue."

Also, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirajuddin Mehraldin recently told a news conference in Dushanbe that his country would support Iran's membership in the SCO.

"Tajikistan is ready to support Iran's decision to join the organization with the agreement of the member states," Mehraddin said.

 Win-win cooperation

Considering the extensive potential of the SCO members in political, security, economic, trade, monetary, banking, energy and cultural fields, it will definitely provide a more suitable space for Iran's international interactions given the determination of the Raisi administration in the “look to the East”. 

And Iran, due to its rich energy resources such as oil and gas, will naturally be an important powerhouse in the SCO. Also, increased cooperation will be useful for all parties as some refer to it as a win-win partnership.

Obstacles ahead 

As mentioned, an agreement by key members to start considering Iran's permanent membership in this regional organization in line with the Raisi administration's special view to the East can be a diplomatic success.

But there are obstacles to tapping this great potential in view of the U.S. economic terrorism against Iran, refusal by some SCO members to have extensive economic ties with Iran for fear of secondary U.S. sanctions, Iran's non-accession to the FATF are among the serious obstacles facing Iran in the field of monetary and banking exchanges.

In this context, some experts believe that in domestic arena, along with issues such as the Vienna talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and lifting of sanctions, smart decisions should be made to lift the sanctions in order to accelerate the process of Iran's membership in the organization and Iran can better use this opportunity for its own economic and political interests.

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