Tehran celebrates entry into SCO block created by China and Russia
Tajikistan gives the green light from the summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. For Iran it opens a market with 40% of the world's population and 20% of global GDP. Iranian scholars: the "post-American" era begins. The danger of intepreting it only in an anti-U.S. key.
Tehran (AsiaNews) - In a rare show of unity, conservative and reformist newspapers and experts have welcomed Iran's full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). After years of waiting, the green light arrived on September 17, during a meeting in Tajikistan of the member countries of the bloc led by China and Russia; official affiliation is expected within a maximum of two years.
For the Islamic Republic this is a diplomatic (anti-Western sanctions) and commercial success, because it opens the doors of a market with 40% of the world's population and 20% of global GDP. It constitutes an "immense" potential for Tehran, which already has an exchange volume with Sco countries around 24 billion euros, according to estimates of March 2021.
"Iran is being integrated into the largest market in the East," the conservative newspaper Javan headlines in full-page, calling SCO "one of the main symbols of the collaboration of non-Western powers," which can open the door to "a post-American era." Another conservative newspaper, Kayhan, considers the possibility of "deflecting Western sanctions" thanks to a "multilateral" policy, abandoning a vision that "is based only on the West". The reformist Etemad, former promoter of campaigns for social freedoms, underlines the possibility of "connecting with a market" with greater potential in terms of numbers.
For the Iranian expert of international relations Fayaz Zahed, Moscow and Beijing have given the green light to Tehran because they count on the short-term resolution of the nuclear dispute. "The SCO nations," he explains, "believe that Iran can live up to its commitments," while until now international sanctions "were the biggest obstacle. Russia, China and India, he adds, are waiting for the cancellation of the punitive measures in order to be able to invest in the Islamic Republic, and Chinese President Xi Jinping himself has spoken of "unanimity" in the decision to welcome Iran.
SCO has been active for 20 years. Created to resolve territorial disputes in Central Asia between the six founding countries - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - it has been institutionalized, embracing various areas: security, economics, energy, culture in a common fight against "terrorism, separatism and extremism". It originates from the so-called Shanghai Five, to which Uzbekistan has been added, and is guided by the Council of Heads of State that meets once a year. Iran has long been an observer member together with Mongolia, India and Pakistan (the latter two are now permanent members); Belarus and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners and a dialogue on reconstruction has been active with Afghanistan since 2005.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi defines as a "diplomatic success" the entry, from which the country will be able to draw enormous political and economic benefits, while the international balance shifts from US unilateralism "to multilateralism and the distribution of powers". For the president, who during the two-day summit held several bilateral meetings, US sanctions are equivalent to "terrorism" and the SCO will be able to devise a valid mechanism to circumvent them.
The Islamic Republic thus makes its first official entry in an international body since the 1979 revolution. Some experts point out an error of perspective: according to Hamidreza Azizi, expert of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Swp), Iran looks at the Sco as an assembly of "non-Western great powers" instead of a modern international organization that will hardly want to get involved in Teheran's personal issues. In this perspective, the scholar concludes, one can read the simultaneous admission as "partners in dialogue" of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt.