PEJOURNAL – Following the interview centered on the impact of Iran on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its member states., with the guest of honor Daniel Ranjbar, a PhD student of International Relations in the people’s friendship university of Russia.
The session was opened with a brief remark by P.Mirzaei Editor in Chief of Political Economy Journal by creating awareness concerning Shanghai Cooperation Organization and then invited Daniel Ranjbar to the forum:
“I’m glad to say hello to our friends and followers, tonight we are going to be with you with another live program about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As most of you know, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one of the frontier organizations in a geo-strategic and geo-politics confrontation between the east and west. Tonight we will be discussing with Dr. Daniel Ranjbar, an expert from Moscow, from the people’s friendship university Russia.
P. Mirzaei: Is it possible to give us a brief introduction about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?
Daniel Ranjbar: Right, I think it is a good idea that everybody should know more about the topic. So let’s start with a bit introduction about Shanghai Cooperation Organization or Shanghai pact if we can call it so, it started in 2001 and officially in 2002; so, formerly, it started with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; so, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan they came as a member after or a bit later but, as we know according to history, Shanghai was made up of five members which was known as Shanghai of five group, it was in 1996 actually.
After that they joined with other countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and recently, in 2017 they had Indian and Pakistan in this group, so, they now have eight members and last week officially they added another member in which we are going to talk about it later.
So, we have some countries that are observers like Afghanistan as you mention, Belarus, Mongolia and Iran; as observers for a very long time, and there is a dialogue.
P.Mirzaei: How about Turkey?
Daniel Ranjbar: Yes, sure, I wanted to tell about that. There are dialogue partners and observers partners; Turkey is called as a dialogue partners in this program because, as we are speaking, Turkey as a NATO member has a different situation in this regard, so
P.Mirzaei: It seems, for instance, like a counter organization to NATO.
Daniel Ranjbar: Yes, that was a problem for Shanghai Cooperation Organization because Turkey wanted to be a member, and after that, they also wanted to be a member of the European Union, so they cannot be a member of SCO. So, in this regard, Turkey became a dialogue member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and actually, there was a summit in Istanbul about Shanghai allowing Turkey to be a member of this group, but still Turkey never gave its membership request to Shanghai Cooperation, so we can say they are not a member.
I should mention here that Armenia and Azerbaijan are both dialogue partners too and recently, there are so many countries that want to be dialogue partners or observers in Shanghai Cooperation, countries like Saudi Arabia.
P.Mirzaei: So, we have three types of membership: permanent membership, dialogue membership and partner membership.
Daniel Ranjbar: Right, right, we have three types of membership in Shanghai Cooperation, and the reason is that Shanghai idea was to speak about the security, to speak about the economy and political issues and in this regard, because of China and Russia view for the future, they wanted to cover more countries in different region; normally, because of political reason.
Just more information, I am just saying that once a year the leader of the organization is chosen from the eight members, and if the observers come, they happen to get in, they will be making a decision on the future of Shanghai. So, shortly, to answer your question, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is really close to the Eurasian Economic Union. There is a big ‘BUT’ about it that in the Eurasian Economic Union, we have Russia as a more active member, but in Shanghai we have China.
P.Mirzaei: How do you see the geo-strategic position of the SCO in regard to NATO? Are they really something of counter organization to each other? As we know, NATO is a military pact, and as you mentioned, Shanghai is a security and economics pact. Is there any form of contradiction of the application of these organizations to each other?
Daniel Ranjbar: Sure, that is actually the geo-political ideal of so many theorist and expert, so, I just wanted to mention some theories that sounds interesting; for example we have Halford Mackinder if people knowns about him; he spoke about the Heartland, he said that the Hot land is central Asia, the country that can access and control this region will become a global power.
P.Mirzaei: The one who rules Eastern Europe will rule the Heartland, the one who rules Heartland will rule the Mainland, Europe and Asia, and the one who rules Mainland will rule the world.
Daniel Ranjbar: Then we have Zbigniew Brzezinski’s theory about the Eurasia landmass which is almost the same theory of that of Halford Mackinder saying that central Asia is the key for Eurasia landmass, so, as we understand the central Asia’s position is more important in all these regards; so, the theory of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is that China and Russia are following this type of theories to have more influence in Heartland or Eurasia or whatever you want to call it so that they can be having more power in this regard.
And the question that you asked about NATO and the west; yes Shanghai is a political and economic idea, having a military exercises and for sure it is an organization that can work against western ideology, the USA and NATO; why, because the idea of Shanghai was to control the democratization or we can say the penetration of western ideology to these region, especially the central Asia and Eurasian countries, so that they can just control it by themselves I mean china and Russia to improve it for the future.
So, if you take a look at the movement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, you will understand that they didn’t have a conflict with NATO or the west, and at the same time they didn’t accept them to join the membership. And here I just wanted to add about Aleksandr Dugin, not everyone like him because of his nationalistic ideas but I like one of his ideas that I think is related to our topic; he’s saying that USA want and west always having this ideology as well in order to create a new Israel in the central Asia, and when we look at this idea we will understand that it has always been a threat for Russia especially.
P.Mirzaei: Is there a geographical location for this new Israel?
Daniel Ranjbar: What Aleksandr Dugin met by the West having an ideology of creating a new Israel in the Central Asia is not about a new land; rather, Dugin is referring to a political ideology; that is a political government against Russia that can collaborate with the west.
P.Mirzaei: Just as the West created Israel in the Middle East, they also have the same concept in mind, creating a system like the Israeli regime in Central Asia.
P.Mirzaei: As you mentioned at the beginning of your speech; there are some News that on the request of Russia, Iran is going to be a permanent member of the SCO, from the point of view the News was spread, there were a lot of interpretation from experts about the future situation of SCO with the permanent presence of Iran because at the moment Iran is an observer member.
What do you think about Iran’s membership in this organization? Can it make a balance between the east and west or it can affect mostly the western policy in the Middle East because Iran is a superpower in west of Asia; its permanent membership in SCO, it means that the SCO is geographically coming toward the west, exactly the same situation that happen after the cold war with NATO; some members were added to NATO and NATO moved toward east; so, with the presence of Iran SCO and NATO come closer and closer. So what do you think about Iran’s membership?
Daniel Ranjbar: The main point that I want to say is that Iran wanted to be a member of SCO from 2006 and 2008 respectively because they gave their request, but because of the sanction issue, especially the sanction of the United Nation that is not compatible with the SCO legal document, they cannot accept Iran as a member. But after the lifting of the sanction and the support of the Chinese president in 2016, the idea of Iran becoming a member of SCO came to reality; and now, China and Russia are supporting this issue.
Iran can be effective and helpful to the SCO, I am saying this from two perspectives. First, they will be happy, the SCO and Central Asia will be happy with Iran’s membership. The reason is that Iran will give accesses to the Persian Gulf and Persian Gulf gives accesses to the Indian Ocean; so, the Indian Ocean will pave accesses to the world for trade purposes.
If they talk about it, Iran can connect Central Asia, or we can say China to the central Asia, central Asia to the south and the Indian Ocean. This is one way and another way is that Iran can connect central Asia to the Europe and to the west.
Another point that is important, and we need to mention it, is about security plans that all have. Iran can be helpful in this regard, why? Because one of the main challenges of the SCO is a security issue, especially the Afghanistan situation before and now. And, unfortunately, in the last few weeks, it has been a problem for Central Asian countries, especially for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that have a border with that country. Iran, as you mentioned, is a superpower in the region and can give military and security assistance to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Another point, is international north south transportation high way, which it is not actually popular but is very useful that is connecting to the Iranian port to the Caspian sea; the Caspian sea is connecting the Central Asia boarder and, there will be north south connection or north west connection which is also important for Central Asia, Iran can make it open for them for easy global trading.
The market and economy issue is understandable here; another problem that Central Asia has is energy, transporting energy to the central Asia and European countries. If Iran’s membership in SCO is going to happen, sanction is not going to work in this regard. So, Iran can easily help with gas, oil, and it can be very useful. That is why I said Central Asia is going to be happy with the membership of Iran, and in any case, it is going to be a win-win situation for both sides. Especially in the face of the Western sanctions, Iran is going to improve itself regarding the section of energy, trade and global communication.
P.Mirzaei: Regarding to the relationship between the belt and road initiative, do you think that Iran’s permanent membership in SCO will be a win-win situation for both the Central Asian countries and Iran in the aspect of trade, Iran can connect both east and west, north and south together and a reliable source of energy for Central Asian countries and definitely Iran will have a security benefit by proving security for other countries.
I think the first example you citied has more real imagination, but at this moment Afghanistan is in a very terrible situation, and no one knows what is going to happen in Afghanistan; it seems that the United States of America is trying to have a deal with the Taliban, we cannot omit this.
On the other side, there is a kind of national resistance, but the situation is not clear because Ahmad Masuod the son is not as clear as Ahmed Shah Masoud the father, so the membership of Iran in SCO has more meaningful concepts, but the countries around, most of these countries you mentioned are around Afghanistan.
In this regard, please give us information on the role of SCO in the Belt and Road initiative. Which of them may include or exclude the other? Or do they have any effect on each other? Or are they completely separated from each other?
Daniel Ranjbar: The point about the belt and road initiative, as we know China is creating a new idea, we can say there is an idea to connect the east to the west, and actually now with this membership as I said Iran will connect East and South East Asia to the West; the idea of China we can say is really beautiful, very idealistic, very nice but from the political point of view, there are some issues between different countries to make them agreed to be member and to use this road, so, the rule of SCO I supposed is more clear because of the answers to other questions before, connecting East to West.
But the main point I will like to mention and is connected to Iran actually, that for China, if Iran can became the member of SCO easily, for China it is easier and more beneficial having Iran in belt and road initiative in place of replacement for any reason, because Iran can connect them to the black sea as well, so, Iran can connect them to the west and because of the Iran geographical location, Iran can easily make the aim of Belt and Road initiative become real not just imagination.
So, in the summit of SCO, we will understand that, as always, China is using economic power, economics policy, economic diplomacy, and they are good at that, so, at the end of our conversation I want to say something about the multipolar world. Unfortunately, the United States and most of the countries in the west still don’t want to accept this concept.
I want to mention president Putin’s speech in last year; he said that we should accept that we are turning to multipolar world and the unipolar world is end, so, and we can see what happened in the last few years, the power of China, the raise of Russian policy, the raise of different organization like SCO; so, everything is changing. I remember something my professor said to me during my last semester to me that the Mega-Trends in a community are usually changing, and now power is shifting from the West to the East, and the countries that accept this can use it and improve, but the countries that reject that are still going to have a problem.
P.Mirzaei: The best conclusion is that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will spread more multilateralism, and yes, it seems the United States doesn’t want to accept it, but we will see in the future.
I want to ask you a very short question, and you could give us a very short answer as well because most of the time I think about that. Do you think in the future we could see something like a military pact under the SCO, is it possible or not?
Daniel Ranjbar: The idea is actually good that you mentioned. SCO members have lately had military exercises with different countries, I supposed that if Iran is going to be a member, they can use this opportunity in the future too.
P.Mirzaei: Sometimes Iran had military exercise with China and Russia.
Daniel Ranjbar: And the point is that, I think that before this military exercises was to show that the western ideas cannot influence these region and this countries; I supposed the situation is changing, this exercises is not just going to be mere exercises, it is going to be an alarm to the west, because as we see in the history Western countries or Western ideology wanted to have military solutions in place of negotiation. In this regard, I am sure that SCO is thinking about it by China, Russia and the new member Iran.