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Analysis

New Iran-Eurasia Cooperation Horizons via SCO

Sunday 18 September 2022
New Iran-Eurasia Cooperation Horizons via SCO

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Alwaght- The 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit was held in Uzbekistan on Friday, discussing regional and international challenges and ways to strengthen partnership among its members. Leading a high-ranking economic delegation, Iranian President Sayed Ibrahim Raisi arrived in the historical city of Samarkand, where the summit was held. 

In addition to attending and speaking at the Shanghai Organization meeting, Raisi had separate meetings with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and leaders of the participating nations. 

The Samarkand meeting is held as the countries of the region are extremely worried about the political developments and insecurity in Afghanistan in the past year, and during this period they have tried many times to find a solution to this crisis through regional meetings, and therefore, examining the developments in Afghanistan is one of the issues. Having in mind that the Samarkand summit is the first after the start of the war in Ukraine, it was of particular importance for the member states. 

Iran membership confirmation 

An important point about this meeting is the confirmation of full Iranian membership. Iran made the bid years ago and last year, the bloc gave Iran the go-ahead to start the accession process. So far, there have been obstacles to this bid, but recent international developments prompted the membership process. The member states ,especially Russia and China, have recently supported the Iranian bid and described it important to the bloc. 

SCO significance 

Although the SCO was initially a security alliance created by several countries, in recent years its role in influencing regional and global developments has increased. According to some analysts, it is no longer just a dialogue between Russia and China with their Central Asian neighbors, but now it has global dimensions and is expanding to the Persian Gulf, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Caucasus. The SCO members account for 24 percent of global GDP, which in 2020 was more than half of G7 countries'. Also, this organization includes 44 percent of the world's population, which shows its growing position. 

In a report on the role of the SCO in global equations, Modern Diplomacy magazine wrote that for its members, energy highlights their importance on the world stage and is a tool used in their foreign policy. Referring to the membership of some other countries, this publication wrote that after the 2022 summit, the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, including Russia, Iran and other countries, will account for more than half of the world's oil production per year, which can effectively influence energy market. Also, the volume of trade between its members in 2021 is estimated to be around $20 trillion, 13 times more than the time of its establishment in 2001. This indicates that the members are trying to increase the level of their relations and enable an important role in global equations. 

Samarkand summit overshadowed by Russian-Chinese tensions with West 

The Samarkand summit was important because the Chinese and Russian presidents attended after a two-year absence. The two powers have had increasing tensions with the West in recent months and are trying to boost cooperation with their allies to check the Western excesses. That Beijing recently invited some countries to the SCO and BRICS — an economic bloc consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa— shows that China is pursuing ambitions in its economic strategy meant to shatter the American hegemony. 

The main founder of the SCO is China and in the past two decades it tried hard to play a key role in it. The global developments in recent months have increased the SCO importance in China's eyes. Though so far have not had a serious confrontation with the West, China now takes a different approach as the US steps up provocations and presence in South China Sea and Taiwan. Beijing leaders are seeking to counter Washington's policy in Asia using the potentials the regional bloc can provide. Therefore, for China, the SCO is not a mere security organization in the region, and the Chinese leaders consider it as a lauching pad to the position of a superpower, which is supposed to dismantle the global institutions built by the US in the past 80 years. 

In the last two decades, China has realized the role and position of Central Asian countries in global economic developments, and for this reason, it is increasing its trade exchanges with these countries day by day. China's trade volume with Central Asia, according to the Chinese commerce ministry, was more than $45 billion in 2021, and this figure is growing annually. Based on this, the volume of trade between China and 5 Central Asian countries has increased more than 100 times compared to 30 years ago. Also, recently published reports indicate that the volume of trade between the two sides will exceed $70 billion by 2030. In the last two decades, China has invested tens of billions of dollars in the energy and infrastructure sectors of Central Asia, which shows how important these countries are to Beijing. According to Chinese officials, in order to achieve better communication with Central Asia, logistics equipment and new corridors will be built between the countries of the region, and these connections will be accelerated with the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. 

China seeks to boost its regional power and realize its major plans through expanding its economic exchanges with Central Asia. Because China intends to revive ancient Silk Road and since Central Asia has a leading role in accomplishment of the project, Beijing is aiding the poor regional states with an economic rise for the final goal of its New Silk Road, also called Belt and Road Initiative. Realizing this dream received top priority after Ukraine war eruption, and since Chinese goods transportation to Europe was disrupted because of Europe's closure of its borders with Russia, Central Asian railways grew in importance for China. 

In addition to China, Russia also has a special view of the SCO and Central Asia. Due to the war in Ukraine, Russia sees the way of interaction with the West completely closed at present, thus, it is trying to bring its allies in the region more to its side. Since Central Asia has suffered the largest damage from the Ukraine war and the level of its interactions with the West is record low, the Russians are trying to meet bilateral needs by strengthening their relations with Central Asia. 

Having lost the European market and land route, russia will have to use the capacities of Central Asia to transfer its goods to European countries, Africa and West Asia. Therefore, the development of trade cooperation and strengthening the infrastructure of these countries is on the agenda of Moscow. The development of the railway routes of these countries in the current situation can ease Russia problems and help it export its goods to other regions in the shortest time and at a lower cost. 

The lauching of North-South Corridor via the Caspian Sea through to the Indian Ocean through Iranian railways is part of Moscow's plan to neutralize the massive Western sanctions. The Russian officials are specially counting on Central Asia and Iran for implementation of the plan. 

Also, in its new doctrine, Russia emphasizes on pivot to the East , prioritizing the partnership with West Asia and Central Asia. Since the SCO contains countries from these regions, Russia intends to increase the economic weight of this organization globally in the face of the Western ambitions. President Vladimir Putin of Russia abd President Xi Jinping of China met on the sidelines of the SCO summit and discussed bilateral ties and international developments. 

Eurasia place in new Iranian strategy 

The Samarkand summit was of economic importance for Iran. Central Asia remained ignored in the Iranian policy since the Soviet collapse. However, President Ebrahim Raisi's administration has well understood the importance of this region on the world stage and plans economic and trade volume boost with it. Due to its extensive economic capacities, this region can play an important role in foreign trade and geopolitical developments, and the expansion of Iran's cooperation with its countries will also contribute greatly to the economic growth of Iran. President Raisi's 'looking East' strategy in his foreign policy makes Central Asia of great significance for Tehran. Given its trade capacities, Iran can engage in the region and promote its position. By developing its relations with Central Asia, Tehran can neutralize Western sanctions and bring home part of its foreign trade earnings from this region. Given the US lack of commitment in the nuclear deal, in case of a revival of the 2015 agreement, there is no guarantee the deal can hold long. This encourages the Iranian officials to push for neutralization of the American sanctions on the strength of partnership with Eurasia, China, and Russia. 

On the other hand, Iran is important to Eurasia and visits to Tehran of Eurasian officials in recent months are expressive of their awareness of Tehran's weight in regional developments. These landlocked countries aspire to access the high seas as an old dream via Iran. The Central Asian states that lost their trade routes with Europe via Russia are seeking alternatives, the best of which is Iran. They are increasingly focusing on North-South Corridor for trade. Using Iran trade route, these countries hit two targets with one shot: Accessing the high seas and sending their products to world markets at lower costs. 

Iran's full SCO membership and expansion of trade with the other members enhances the organization's effectiveness in world trade, in addition to boosting Iran's global geopolitical position. By expanding its railways and routes, Iran can play as a regional corridor hub and Europe-Indian Ocean linking ring and, thus, control a major part of Asian trade with Europe. This can strengthen the China-Russia-Iran triangle as Beijing and Moscow on the one hand and the West on the other hand are at each other's throats. With SCO bolstering in the future, the US attempts to deal blows to these powerful countries will become a difficult job. 

 

Tags :

Iran SCO Trade Russia China West Sanctions

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