The summit meeting of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is scheduled to be held in the Uzbekistan’s capital city of Tashkent on June 23-24, 2016. At present, Iran is only an observer member of this organization and submitted its request for full membership last year. Now that international sanctions against Iran have been removed and restrictions caused by resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council have been lifted, there is no important obstacle to Iran’s full membership in the organization. Since the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was established, the Islamic Republic of Iran has considered it as a positive and effective institution under regional and international conditions. As a result, by requesting to become an observer member in 2005 and then requesting full membership in 2008, which was repeated last year, Iran has been trying to play a more effective role in the region.
Due to many reasons, including membership of all neighboring countries of Iran in various security alliances and cooperation institutions, and because Iran is not a member of any effective regional institution, the membership of the Islamic Republic in this organization is an important strategic imperative. I by no means believe that Iran should necessarily look upon this institution as an alternative for relations with other governments and probably for a full-fledged and perfectionist oriental policy. However, I seriously believe that in its constructive interaction with the world, Iran’s foreign policy must put emphasis on forging balance and multilateralism, and should not limit its opportunities for interaction as was the case with three important Eastern powers: China, India and Russia. At the same time, however, I see the SCO as a middle way between being part of an alliance and not becoming a member of any international institution.
After an important part of the Western forces left Afghanistan, and due to subsequent concerns about increasing activity of the Taliban forces, the rise of Daesh terrorist group in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, and increasing need of Russia, China, and governments in Central Asia to Iran’s effective role, it seems that the present juncture is a good opportunity to pay more attention to Iran’s membership in the SCO. On the other hand, following the conclusion of Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the West, the way has been paved for more international interactions by the Islamic Republic and this issue has been even effective in Iran’s relations with the member states of the SCO. In addition, attention must be paid to the new international approach to Iran in line with which, high-ranking officials from Russia, India, China, and European countries have paid official visits to Iran for the first time after a few decades.