Jahangir Karami

Why Iran has to Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

Date of publication : June 13, 2016 14:44 pm
Member State Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting is held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on May 24, 2016.
Member State Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting is held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on May 24, 2016.

Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, will be hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in 24th and 25th of July, 2016. Iran is currently an observer member in the organization while proposing its full membership request last year. With the international sanctions lifted and the restrictions of the Security Council's resolution no longer effective, the major obstacles to Iran's membership are gone. Some analysts in Iran believe that this membership is not necessary and is fundamentally incompatible with the constitution. It is claimed that due to some reasons such as the membership of all Iran's neighboring countries in the security unions and cooperation institutions and Iran's absence in any effective regional institution, Iran's membership in this organization is a strategiclly important necessity.
Supportive Reasons behind Iran's full membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
1. Iran's membership in SCO will lead to fewer threats and promotion of regional cooperation in politics, security, economy as well as international desirability which in turn protects national interests and increases national power of Islamic Republic of Iran.
2. Joining SCO can be seen as detent policy towards Iran's northern neighbors (i.e. Central Asia).
3. Since Iran is now considered a threat by the US, its membership in SCO, which is a non-military alliance, corroborates the notion that Islamic Republic of Iran, using lawful and international means, is following its defensive policies.
4. Iran's complete and extensive cooperation with SCO will increase Iran's bargaining power against West and regional challenges.
5. While the U.S. is trying to alienate Iran, Iran's membership in this organization can be a prpoer answer to American actions.
Iran and SCO can provide important opportunities for each other. Iran should break free of its strategic isolation in international and regional equations. Joining this organization can be the middle way since creating an effective allied central institution and joining equal strategic alliance is not possible. We have witnessed this isolation especially in recent months' developments and the decisions and declarations made by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC), Arab League (AL), and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Joining this organization is not at odds with any of country's legal and political principles. On the contrary, pressures made by Saudi Arabia and Turkey in [P]GCC, AL and OIC in the past couple of years have shown how these institutional instruments can play an effective role in multilateral diplomacy.
Iran's stabilizing role and its vital experiences in helping to bring peace, stability, and security in the region as well as being engaged in the war on terror in the past few decades is an important possibility for SCO as well which can boost its abilities throughout the Middle East, southern and central Asia. Iran's geographical, cultural, economic, and political potentials can lead to SCO increasing its features and capabilities for regional cooperation and integration as well as reviving the Asian business and cultural-driven collaboration, abandoned two centuries ago.
Meanwhile, we have to understand that Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not a security and military league and cannot be called an effective regional integration institutes yet. But if current trends continue, SCO can play an extensive role in regional integration and the realization of Asian Security Initiative while being a strategic opportunity for Iran at the same time.

Jahangir Karami, an associate professor at the University of Tehran, is the senior fellow at IRAS.

ID: 1422
Author : Jahangir Karami