Iran will look to join an Asian security group headed up by Russia and China in a move that further solidifies ties between the countries and aims to limit Western influence in the region.
“By signing the document for full membership of the [Shanghai Cooperation Organization], now Iran has entered a new stage of various economic, commercial, transit and energy cooperation,” foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote of the agreement.
Iran on Thursday signed a memorandum of obligations to join the group, which meets this week in Uzbekistan, Reuters reported. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attended the event, during which he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Raisi pledged that Iran will never recognize sanctions against Russia and will instead move to strengthen ties between the two countries, the semi-official and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-linked Tasnim News Agency reported. He also claimed that the lack of progress on agreeing to a new nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, “proved” to the world that the U.S. is “incapable” of negotiating.
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Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that Iran’s progression to join the SCO should be “no surprise” as Tehran increasingly looks to Russia and China.
“Both Russia and China have increasingly embraced the idea of using Iran as a pawn against the West,” Taleblu told Fox News Digital. “While not a full SCO member, it’s clear Tehran covets the cover that America’s near-peer competitors can provide Iran against Western pressure.”
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Taleblu noted that the increased number of meetings between Putin and Raisi have already yielded Iranian drones for Russian deployment in Ukraine, saying it presents “another worrying sign” of how coordination between the two countries would present itself.
Russia, China and ex-Soviet states in Central Asia formed the SCO as a replacement for the Shanghai Five. The group expanded four years ago with the admission of India and Pakistan. Iran applied for membership, which the group approved last year. Tehran hopes to use the organization as a means of dodging Western sanctions, according to Reuters.
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Rebekah Koffler, the president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former DIA intelligence officer, told Fox News Digital that Russia’s cooperation with rogue nations poses “a serious risk” to U.S. security — primarily the free movement of weapons and knowledge between these countries.
“With Russia possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and extensive know-how that Moscow could potentially share, this emerging coalition — even though it’s not a NATO-style true alliance — could have destabilizing effects on the homeland and globally,” Koffler said.
Koffler called Iran one of the most “dangerous, aggressive and reckless U.S. adversaries” that will get a battlefield test of its military hardware against U.S. and NATO hardware as Russia continues its offensive in Ukraine.