Latest Afghan situation, US hegemony call for SCO's new role
Published: Sep 14, 2021 10:32 PM
A flag with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's logo. Photo: AFP

A flag with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's logo. Photo: AFP

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit is scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe. The upcoming summit dealing with Iran's application for SCO membership has drawn much attention in recent days.

Iran hopes to become a member of the SCO as soon as possible, Kazem Jalali, Iranian Ambassador to Russia, said on September 10, according to Russian news agency Tass. 

Iran has long been isolated and contained by some Western countries led by the US. Washington is still continuing to impose sanctions on Iran. Even though US President Joe Biden's administration promised to restore the Iran nuclear deal, he has not mentioned about lifting the sanctions. Given this, Iran's new president Ebrahim Raisi and his government have no illusions about the improvement of the Iran-US relations, and Raisi has repeatedly delivered his willingness to work with China and Russia.

The SCO is an organization led by China and Russia with the participation of some regional countries. Iran has been an SCO observer since 2005 and submitted its application for full membership several times. Raisi's disenchantment with the US has further urged him to pursue SCO membership.

Besides, countries neighboring Afghanistan, including Iran, are paying great attention to the country's situation. They are especially trying to prevent the outflow of a large number of jihadists from Afghanistan, which would lead to threats and damage in their own countries. Anti-terrorism is also one of the most important issues of the SCO. By joining the SCO or strengthening anti-terrorism cooperation under the SCO framework, Iran can ensure its regional security to the maximum. 

For a long period, Iran has been regarded by the West as an outcast of the international community because of the Iranian nuclear issue. If Iran joins the SCO, it can, to curtain extent, avoid such diplomatic and political isolation. It means Iran would become recognized by some important non-Western countries, which would likely bring large political benefits to the country.

In terms of security, the SCO's anti-terrorism efforts are an important theme. The resolution of terrorism must involve transnational cooperation. If Iran joins the SCO, it will have more cooperation in intelligence sharing and coordinated operations with other member countries. This will be a powerful restraint to the possible spillover of extremists in the future situation of Afghanistan.

Moscow has called to endorse Tehran's bid for membership in the SCO. And during the phone conversation between Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on September 3, Abdollahian thanked Wang for supporting Iran's permanent membership in the SCO, according to the Tehran Times. 

China has been cautious about Iran joining the SCO. Previously, China had hoped to achieve peaceful coexistence with the US and avoid over-provoking the US. China had reservations about the membership of Iran, which has long harbored a hard-line stance against the US, and China did not want to give the impression to the international community that the SCO was an organization aimed to counter the US.

However, the current situation is changing. As the US continues to carry out its comprehensive containment of China, the game between the two great powers is turning white-hot. China and Iran formally signed a long-gestating 25-year cooperation accord in March, reflecting China's willingness to strengthen cooperation in various fields. When it comes to Iran's membership in SCO, China may change its stance, as strengthening relations with Iran is not a bad choice. 

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. tweeted in August, "Fortunately, the political obstacles to Iran's membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have been removed and Iran's membership will be finalized."

This post could mean that China and Russia - the two large countries with decisive roles - have reached a consensus on the issue. But it still could take some time to complete all the procedures. With the hardest step made, there won't be too many problems ahead. 

Against the backdrop of China-US and Russia-US confrontations, it will be a trend for China, Russia, and Iran to increase their unity. The three Eurasian countries are important for the region. Their solidarity, particularly cooperation through the SCO platform, will be a counterbalance or deterrence to the US.

The author is professor of the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn