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Beleaguered Iran Seeks Allies in Post-Soviet Space

By John Daly | Sun, 10 June 2012 00:00 | 3

Beset by rising rhetoric about a possible Israeli attack against its nuclear facilities, Iran is seeking full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an additional layer of international diplomatic “life insurance.”  On 12 November 2011 Iranian Supreme National Security Council's Secretary Assistant Ali Bageri said that Iran is seeking full membership in the SCO, upgrading its current observer status, telling journalists in Moscow, "We have already submitted a relevant application."

Now, Iran has gotten an endorsement from the SCO about the unacceptability of force – sort of.

The leaders of SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan said in a joint statement signed at the end of a two-day summit on 7 June that "any attempts to solve the Iranian problem with force are unacceptable and could lead to unpredictable circumstances."

Pretty impressive accomplishment, given that Iran currently only has “observer” status at the SCO.

The SCO, founded in Shanghai in 2001, currently consists of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan while Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status. Decisions on SCO membership and observer status are made with the consensus of all member countries.

Iran first submitted an official application for SCO observer status on 25 February 2005. In March 2008 Iran then applied for upgrading its status to formally joining the organization.

Three years ago Moscow was much cooler to Tehran’s application. Russian Foreign Ministry Department for Information and Mass Media Deputy Director Andrei Krivtsov commented, "We do not accept any new members of SCO, as no country is seeking to extend the organization for the sake of extension itself. Any talk about an early admittance of Iran to SCO has no grounds."

Iran now has a powerful ally in Russia, which earlier on 6 November 2011 hosted an SCO meeting in Saint Petersburg. The Russian government pushed for both Iran and India being allowed to join SCO. Then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, “Russia would welcome the positive review of applications to join our organization in one form or another from any interested nation.” NATO member Turkey also has “dialogue partner” status and has also requested full membership.

The ultimate purpose of the SCO remains a contentious issue between Russia and China however, as while Russia apparently hopes to build the SCO into a counterbalance against NATO, China views the SCO as primarily an economic union, where Beijing’s booming economy clearly gives it an edge over Russia in dealing with the SCO’s “junior members.”

Iran sees full SCO membership as a most valuable asset in its efforts to prevent encirclement by NATO and other U.S.-led entities, a position that Moscow can well understand.  In July 2011 Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi during an interview with the Russian media described Iran as the "most significant neighbour" of Russia for standing in the way of the U.S.-led Western encirclement strategy.

Even without SCO membership however, Iran has brought the Russian Federation on board as opposing a military strike on Iran, as on 8 November 2011 Russian Federation Foreign Ministry  Lavrov commented,  “there is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear problem as there is no military solution to any other problem in the modern world."

China is currently Iran’s largest oil export mark, and has steadfastly rejected sanctions. China continues to invest in an Iran steadily drained of Western investment and Iran is the fourth-largest recipient of Chinese non-bond investment, which a military strike would put at risk. Iranian SCO membership would place the Sino-Iranian relationship in a position to undermine U.S. attempts to isolate Iran.

Iran has another card up its sleeve for seeking military partners, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The CSTO was established after the collapse of the USSR in December 1991 by a number of former Soviet republics. When Iran began seeking SCO membership it received a warmer welcome from CSTO, as on 18 May 2007 CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha said, "CSTO is an open organization. If Iran applies in accordance with our charter, we will consider the application."

Iranian CSTO membership would strengthen its military alliances, as Article 4 of CSTO’s charter states, “In case an act of aggression is committed against any of the Member States all the others Member States will provide it with necessary assistance, including military one, as well as provide support with the means at their disposal in exercise of the right to collective defence in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.”

Bolstering Iranian hopes, on 13 April 2011 Bordyuzha, while not mentioning Iran specifically, said that the CSTO is considering expanding the grouping.
Iran’s interest in joining the SCO and CSTO is lacking a crucial element – time. Neither Moscow nor Beijing are known for making snap decisions, with the result that Tehran may soon find itself overtaken by events. That said, having Russia and China in your corner arguing against military action is no small consideration, either in Tel Aviv or Washington.

So, where does the West go from here?

Did the SCO indicate that it would engage in conflict for Iran?

No.

But  Iran’s interest in CSTO and SCO are hardly a minor policy wonk exercise, as between Russia, Kazakhstan (both non-OPEC producers) and Iran, the trio account for nearly 20 percent of the world’s oil output, which could be offlined to the global community should it embark on “reckless adventureism,” to use a piquant Soviet term.

The phrase, "any attempts to solve the Iranian problem with force are unacceptable and could lead to unpredictable circumstances" was signed off by SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan should therefore factor into the considerations of those beating the drums for a military strike against Iran. Hardly insignificant, as the SCO statement was signed by all members.

Something for both Washington and Tel Aviv hawks to consider.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

About the author

Contributor
John Daly
Company: U.S.-Central Asia Biofuels Ltd
Position: CEO

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Leave a comment

  • Philip Andrews on June 11 2012 said:
    This thing about Iran joining the SCO is an almost 'beside the point' issue.

    Iran is defended by some serious Russian anti-aircraft defence systems. There are probably Russian technicians and training personnel in Iran, equally probably some Speznaz. Therev may even be Russian nuclear techs/scientists at Bushehr etc.

    China may have technical personnel in Iran. It is rumoured that the US drone was brought down by a Chinese technical team, not Iranians. (Its funny how the West always attempts to paint the Iranians almost as a primitive Moslem country without scientific accomplishment-quite a pathetic attitude really).

    So if the West does go lunatic and attack Iran not only is the striking force likely to get a bloody nose from Russian supplied hardware, but it may even succeed in killing Russians and Chinese, which would create a hell of a stink.

    This membership of the SCO is merely a way to 'rubber stamp' a situation of informal cooperation and assistance goimng back to the Soviet era (it is rumoured that Khomeinei was actually very pro-Soviet and that indeed the KGB had a hand in getting him from Paris to Tehran).
  • Mohawk- native on June 11 2012 said:
    If any country puts men on the ground to help a country in crisis/conflict
    They should expect Deaths .It makes me sick reading these comment, , everyone hates America Untill they have a national tradegy and when that happens ,it's amercia spending it's wealth n it's citizens blood to help.
  • Mel Tisdale on June 12 2012 said:
    Anyone who has studied the attack on the USS Liberty during the Six Day War will almost certainly not put anything past Israel. It behaves like an acolyte of the school bully: “Touch me and my friend, the school bully, will make you regret it!” How else does one explain the fact that Israel is not only allowed nuclear weapons, it is also allowed to dictate which other nations can have them?

    There is an Axis of Evil and we may all live to regret allowing it to continue in existence.

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