Iran can smartly use SCO membership as leverage in Vienna talks: South Alabama University professor

September 21, 2021 - 21:36

TEHRAN – A professor of political science and international relations at the University of South Alabama (USA) According says Iran's permanent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will not in itself have a decisive impact on Tehran's relations with the West as well as the Vienna talks.

However, Nader Entessar says, Iran can use its membership in the organization as a leverage through careful planning and active foreign policy with the West and the Vienna talks.

"Most of the SCO member states have good and extensive relations with the West, and their membership in the organization has not affected their relations with the West," Entessar told IRNA in an interview published on Tuesday.

The Vienna talks are aimed at to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

After 15 years Iran was admitted as a full member of the SCO on September 17. So far Iran was an observer member. The decision to accept Iran as a member was done as the SCO leaders met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on September 16-17.

"There were two main reasons for the prolongation of Iran's permanent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. One reason was that there was no consensus among the members of this organization on accepting Iran as a permanent member. The second reason was related to Iran itself. The Iranian administrations did not show as much interest in the country's permanent membership as they should," Entessar stated.

On the dimensions, position and importance of the SCO, the professor said it is a newly established and relatively young institution and has not yet reached its potential.

“Therefore, it still does not have a high position in the world compared to some old organizations,” Entesar highlighted. However, he said, with the passage of time and reaching political maturity, it can become one of the most valuable global organizations.  

“The main goal of the SCO is to fight extremism”
The expert does not consider the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an anti-Western regional group, stating that the main and strategic goal of the organization is to fight extremism, especially Salafi extremism, terrorism and separatist movements. 

Most of the members of the organization have very good relations with the West, Entessar noted.

Regarding the benefits of Iran's permanent membership in the SCO, he noted: "The number of citizens of the member states of the organization is almost half of the world's population, and the gross domestic product of these countries is a quarter of the world."

“Being a member of the Shanghai pact or any other organization does not in itself bring benefits to member states," said the professor of political science and international relations at the University of South Alabama. 

In order to gain its benefits and interests, Iran must formulate an intelligent, active and changeable foreign policy in line with the conditions of the region and the world, and implement the main foreign policy priority on the protection of the country's national interests, the expert underscored.

“Permanent admission to SCO an important step towards orientalism”

Referring to some internal conflicts among the members of the SCO, Entesar said: "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a young institution and has not yet reached full political maturity, so some internal conflicts among the official members of this organization are not unexpected at this time." 

He added that NATO, which is much older and more cohesive than the SCO, has not yet been able to resolve some internal conflicts among its members. 

There is no and there will be no organization in the world that there is no conflict or disagreement among its members.

Asked to what extent Tehran's permanent admission to the SCO could be effective in balancing Iran's foreign relations, the foreign policy analyst said: "The president of Iran has said that the focus of Iran's foreign policy is on cooperation with its neighbor and the countries of the region. And Iran's vision will be more orientalist and Asian.”

He added Tehran's admission to the SCO will be an important step in this direction, Entessar went on to say.

Entessar also said it is incorrect to call the SCO as "Eastern NATO", saying the dimensions of military and security cooperation of the members of the SCO is in no way comparable to the extensive military and security cooperation that exists between NATO countries.

The NATO Charter obliges member states to take action in the event of a military attack on a member to defend the country that has been attacked, he said.

The SCO charter does not address the issue of collective security as defined in NATO and this means that if a member state is attacked, other members have no obligation to provide military assistance, Entessar elaborated.