Russia recently said it would support Iran’s bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an emerging economic and political alliance led by China. This Shanghai Bloc was originally formed in 1996 before it was rebranded in 2001. Its membership includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Last year, India and Pakistan also signed the memorandum of obligations and are expected to become full members sometime this year. The bloc has expanded into a military organization over the last few years and has run joint military exercises in the past.
Iran currently has observer status in the organization, meaning it can attend summits. As is quite clear, Iran and Russia already cooperate closely both economically and militarily, particularly regarding the Syrian conflict. What is especially notable about this alliance, however, is the fact that the U.S. was rejected from gaining observer status in 2004, which, as Newsweek reports, reinforces “the impression that its goal is to exist in opposition to Western political and military alliances.”
Further complicating this issue is the fact that NATO member Turkey expressed a desire to join this organization at the end of last year. As Turkey transitions from a so-called democracy to a nearly outright dictatorship, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan may find he has more in common with his eastern counterparts than he does his western ones.