Iran Wants Full SCO Membership

A00905688.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran is apparently no more satisfied with its observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and it hopes to become a full member.

On March 24 in Tajikistan, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran had submitted an official request for full membership to the SCO Secretariat. According to the minister, Tajikistan supports Iran’s request.

The SCO is an intergovernmental security organization founded in 2001. Russia, Tajikistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan are full members and Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia have observer status. Proceeding from economic activity and feasibility, Iran has enough reasons to become a full member of the organization. It is one of the key economic players in Greater Central Asia, the organization’s zone of operation, where the United States is trying to strengthen its position to Moscow’s displeasure.

Iran is involved in the construction of two tunnels and the Sangtudin and Shurab hydropower plants in Tajikistan, the largest power plants in the region. It is contributing to the construction of a railroad that will link Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and has also been entrusted to establish free economic zones in Tajikistan.

Additionally, Iran is working hard to get a foothold in the markets of other Central Asian republics, such as Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, Ria Novosti said.

Afghanistan deserves a special mention in this connection. The United States presents Afghanistan as the core of the Greater Central Asia and is trying to harness the other regional countries to it, which calls for tearing them away from Moscow. At the same time, the Kremlin is trying hard to find ways to involve Afghanistan in the SCO, but so far unsuccessfully. But Iran has firm economic, cultural and political positions in Afghanistan that are traditionally stronger than the positions of the other SCO member states.

All this notwithstanding, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said at the August 2007 SCO Summit in Bishkek that the SCO countries “have come to a decision on the expediency of reaffirming the moratorium on expanding its membership.”

Full membership in the SCO would increase Iran’s economic and political power. For example, the United States and Europe might refrain from open confrontation with the SCO if Iran as a full member refuses to give up its nuclear right of uranium enrichment as stipulated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

For a full membership of Iran in the SCO, Moscow and Beijing must come to terms on lifting the moratorium on expanding the organization’s membership. This decision would entail a number of other mutual concessions, such as full membership for Beijing’s protégé, Pakistan, or new deals between Tehran and Moscow.

In short, bargaining is quite possible, which is why all parties concerned have limited themselves to general words when speaking about Iran’s request.

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