Let’s Tune In: Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

Giuseppe Maria Bartalotta

Let’s Tune In is a weekly column produced by our Newsroom team to highlight one story that you might have missed from last week. You can read more about our weekly content on the Newsroom page.


On September 15th, Iran signed the memorandum of commitment toward the Shanghai cooperation organization (SCO) becoming a permanent member of it. According to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the agreement will not be only a normal relationship among states but it will open a new stage for Iran. It will have an important impact on the economy, transit, and energy cooperation. Its membership will be official in April 2023.

The Shanghai cooperation organization was founded in 2001 by six countries: CinaRussiaKazakistanKirghizistanTajikistan e Uzbekistan. Currently, the members became eight with India and Pakistan with several observers among which there was also Iran. The main goals of this Organization are several: promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection, and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region, moving towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order. The Organization is one of the biggest in the world it can count on 44% of the global population and 30% of the global GDP.

Last year after the SCO accepted Iran‘s application for accession, the Iran government asked the SCO members for help in averting the sanctions on its nuclear program. Iran has faced a very hard period since the Trump administration abandoned the deal on Iran’s nuclear program in 2018. The consequence of the withdrawal has been crystallized in the sanctions Iran has endured until now. these sanctions were divided into two tranches: an initial set of non-oil sanctions on 7 August 2018, and a second more significant batch on 5 November 2018 against over 700 persons and entities, including around 300 new targets.

After the Samarkand’s meeting in Uzbekistan in the Shanghai cooperation organization statement, the SCO members ask all the parties in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to consider and respect the implementation of the Iranian nuclear program. The talks had already been opened by West members, and the same from the Biden Administration, but what Iran hopes it is that with this statement there will be an important speeding up in the operation.

This is what the statement lays down: “The member states place emphasis on the consistent implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, they call upon all participants to strictly abide by their commitments towards the full and effective implementation of the document”. You can read more about it on the article SCO calls for strict compliance with Iran nuke deal commitments.

Another important point to highlight by the SCO is the Indian attendance at the conference. This country has ties with West and Asian countries, it is in the SCO and the Quad and this does not help the members of these organizations to clearly understand the country’s intentions and its stands on a number of issues. To complicate things further, India is going to have: the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council in December 2022, the Presidency of the SCO in 2023, and the chair of the G20.

Nevertheless, the SCO was built on Asian needs and it is not a military alliance but an economic one. West countries, however, are afraid this could become a military one as happened several times in economic alliances during history. The fact that this organization has been joined by two nuclear countries as Pakistan and India, and now Iran has increased the anxiety about it. The organization is becoming huge and potentially dangerous for those who are not part of it, but some agreements could help them to start a project together and be more friendly to each other. The International Community hopes that the Organizations can work together and find the right way to communicate without prejudice.

Will the West lift the sanctions against Iran? What will Iran‘s role in the SCO be?

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by Giuseppe Maria Bartalotta time to read: 3 min
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