THE SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION: RUSSIA’S VIEW ON IRAN’S CANDIDACY
Farrukh Usmonov, Doctoral Program Fellow, University of Tsukuba (Tsukuba, Japan)
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) first came into being as a result of border negotiations between Russia and China, but evolved shortly thereafter into more than this. It is a regional organization comprised of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan with its mandate now encompassing trade and security. Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan have been granted observer status, which increased the world’s attention to the SCO.
However, none of the observer states were upgraded to full membership, despite their willingness to do so. Such circumstances may cause misunderstanding between existing observer states and other nominated countries planning to apply to the SCO. In addition to that, the failure of a rational decision on expansion of the Organization raises doubts about the concordance and harmony within the SCO.
Although it has six full member states, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization identifies itself as an organization in which decision-making is dominated by China and Russia. These two main actors, with their giant markets, make the Shanghai Region attractive, as well as politically independent of the West.
Iran is one of the five observer states that applied for full membership during President Ahmadinejad’s administration in early 2005. However, even though almost a decade has passed since this intention was expressed, Iran continues to cooperate with the SCO. Newly elected President Hassan Rouhani’s pragmatic approach has almost resolved the country’s conflict with the West after the six plus one meeting achievements in November 2013, when Iran agreed to decrease uranium enrichment in return for lighter sanctions by the EU and other states. The Iranian president paid his first international visit to Bishkek in September 2013, where he participated in the annual Shanghai Meeting. Iran still considers this region to be important, and it is no doubt a country that could strengthen the role of the Organization.
Meanwhile, Iran remains an observer state and this research paper will focus on the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, more precisely on Iran’s intention to join, and the implications of this for Russia’s academic and political circles. What do Russians expect of Iran, and what do they think are the pros and cons of Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?
Keywords: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Iran, Russia, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Shanghai Region, observer state, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).