Moves to revive JCPOA, membership in SCO show a balance in foreign policy
Moves to revive JCPOA, membership in SCO show a balance in foreign policy
Nozar Shafiei, a foreign policy analyst, has said a move by Iran to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) demonstrate that Tehran is moving towards a “balance” in foreign policy.

TEHRAN (Iran News) – Moves to revive JCPOA, membership in SCO show a balance in foreign policy. Nozar Shafiei, a foreign policy analyst, has said a move by Iran to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) demonstrate that Tehran is moving towards a “balance” in foreign policy.

Iran was admitted as a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Friday. The decision to accept Iran as a member came as the SCO leaders met on Thursday and Friday in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, for an annual summit. It was the 21st summit of its kind. President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran, who took power in early August, participated in the conference.

“The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was held while the president attended the summit for the first time and this trip is his first foreign trip. It is assumed that what he proposes reflects the views and approaches of the new Iranian administration,” Shafiei said in an interview with IRNA published on Saturday.

The expert stated that the president’s remarks at the SCO summit were a signal for diplomats, experts and analysts that shows where Iran’s foreign policy will be heading in the next four years.

He also referred to the recent consensus between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities based on the Safeguards agreement, saying: “On the other hand, there are signs in the relations between Iran and the West that indicate an improvement of relations between the two sides.”

The balance can be seen in the visit of IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi to Tehran and the agreement reached between the two sides, as well as the willingness by the parties to the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) to continue the Vienna talks in order to revive the multilateral pact, he underlined.

Shafiei also assessed the messages sent to Tehran by the JCPOA parties to revive the nuclear agreement seem promising.

The talks to revitalize the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action started in April. Six rounds of talks were held until June 20. Though the sides failed to agree on all issues, the talks made considerable progresses. The U.S., which quit the JCPOA during Trump’s presidency, is participating in the talks indirectly.

Now that the new administration has come to power in Iran, the talks are expected to start within weeks.

“Given that there are hopes for a revival of the JCPOA and the lifting of sanctions, this issue sends a message to various parties that Iran attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit with every possibility at its disposal,” Shafiei opined.

Iran has been seeking membership since years ago. However, the United Nations sanctions against Iran and lately opposition by Tajikistan acted as hurdle for membership. Before Iran was admitted as member it, had been observer status by the Eurasian group.

“The issue of permanent membership is not decided in a summit, but in terms of expertise, a permanent membership of a country is discussed and concluded, and if nothing special happens, that membership will be announced,” the analyst explained.

The university professor said permanent membership in the SCO has two stages: one stage is the announcement of membership and the other stage is the membership process, which may take more than a year, just as the membership of India and Pakistan took three years.

SCO emphasizes campaign against terrorism, separatism and extremism

The SCO is mostly seen as a security bloc led by Russia and China.

“The meaning of Iran’s permanent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is, in fact, Iran’s membership in one of the most important regional organizations. A revival of the JCPOA and membership in the organization show that Iran is moving towards a balance in foreign policy,” Shafiei pointed out.

One of the major topics of the SCO summit was the current situation in Afghanistan as the Taliban have returned to power after 20 years.

Since 2015, Afghanistan has also been striving to get a membership in the SCO. The situation has become more complicated as the Taliban have taken the reigns.

“The fact is that the current situation in Afghanistan has affected the whole region…. This issue made the Afghan crisis one of the important agendas of the summit.”

Stressing that in terms of security the SCO charter is against terrorism, separatism, and extremism, the foreign policy analyst said: “It is important for members of the organization to analyze what is happening in Afghanistan and its consequences. In fact, the organization decides on one of the most important issues in its life.”

Referring to Washington’s pressure on Beijing and Moscow, Shafiei said: “Perhaps never before have China and Russia been under as much pressure from the West, especially the United States, as they are today, and the Shanghai organization has not convened a meeting in such a context.”

On Wednesday, the U.S., UK, and Australia announced a security pact in the Asia-Pacific, in what’s seen as an effort to counter China.

It will let Australia build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the U.S., according to the BBC.

The AUKUS pact is one of the countries’ biggest defense partnerships in decades, analysts say.

China has condemned the agreement as “extremely irresponsible”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.

China’s embassy in Washington accused the countries of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.

Some analysts also say one of the chief reasons for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and gradually reducing its presence in West Asia is to focus more on China.

On the other hand, Russia has come under increased Western pressure in regard to its disputes with Ukraine.

Shafiei also pointed to the previous sanctions on Iran backed by the UN, saying: “One of the reasons for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s reluctance to accept Iran permanently years ago was that Tehran was under United Nations sanctions, but Resolution 2231 has lifted sanctions on Iran and the United States and the West should also move towards lifting sanctions on Iran.”

Resolution 2231 ratified by the UN Security Council in July 2015 annulled all previous UN resolutions against Iran.

Shafiei said that a possible lifting of sanctions has given hope to the SCO and Iran’s membership.

“Sanctions on Iran may have prevented Iran from membership in previous years, but their adjustment paved the way for Iran’s membership,” he pointed out.

Benefits of permanent membership in SCO 

Shafiei emphasized that no country is now completely Eastern or completely Western-oriented.

“Even China, Russia and the United States are neither completely Western nor completely Eastern-oriented. Countries have ‘multi-vector diplomacy’ and ‘dynamic diplomacy’ on the agenda, and on the other hand, rapid developments and acceleration have led countries to make decisions in cybernetic conditions.”

He underlined that if Iran’s foreign policy orientation was only the East or only the North, etc. it would be wrong. “In the last 40 years, we have seen the loss of some of these orientations. We must have the concept from the East and the West that if a country does not have a colonial, unilateral, domineering and authoritarian policy towards us, we can have close relations and cooperation with that country.”

“An organization can be the backbone of our foreign policy and national security, even if it is a claim on the paper,” said the expert on the benefits of Iran’s permanent membership in the SCO.

“(For example,) if one day radical forces from Pakistan or Afghanistan invade Iran’s Baluchistan, all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are obliged to counter these forces in security cooperation with Iran.”

Shafiei added if a country like the United States puts Iran under political and economic pressure, the SCO is a strategic institution that can reduce these pressures through multilateralism.

“The Shanghai organization facilitates relations between members and allows members to interact with each other,” the expert underscored.

According to the professor, the SCO is turning competition into cooperation.

Organizations work to facilitate relations and establish peaceful relations, and if necessary, become regional strongholds to defend the interests and security of members, he explained.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday welcomed the approval of the Islamic Republic’s permanent membership in the SCO, saying it will play a leading role in enhancing Tehran’s ties with neighboring and Asian countries.

In a post on his official Twitter account, Saeed Khatibzadeh said he “warmly welcome(s) the decision of the SCO to approve #Iran’s full membership.”

He added that the endorsement would be “a major step toward enhanced ties with neighbors & an important impetus for our Asia-centered foreign policy.”

The spokesperson emphasized that the country would continue its efforts to “build on indigenous initiatives for the good of the region.”

Addressing the SCO summit on Friday, President Raeisi said Iran’s foreign policy has always been based on supporting multilateralism and active participation in international organizations while playing a constructive role in countering regional and global challenges.

“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been based on active participation in international organizations, multilateralism and opposition to unilateralism based on justice, cooperation, mutual respect and the need to play a constructive role in facing international and regional challenges,” the president said, according to Press TV.

He added that the world has entered a new era where hegemony and unilateralism are on the decline.

The international system, the president said, is changing towards polarization and redistribution of power in favor of independent countries.

“As in the not-so-distant past, Asia is at the center of global change. Maintaining and strengthening peace in this vast area is not a choice but a necessity. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its ‘governing spirit’ i.e mutual trust, common interests, equality, mutual consultation, respect for cultural diversity and common development are key tools for maintaining peace in the 21st century,” Raisi said.