Iran has moved a step closer towards becoming a permanent member of a China and Russia-dominated Asian security body, as Tehran seeks to overcome economic isolation imposed by U.S. sanctions. Foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran had signed a memorandum of obligations to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which is holding a summit this week in Uzbekistan.

What

  1. The body, formed in 2001 as a talking shop for Russia, China and ex-Soviet states in Central Asia, expanded four years ago to include India and Pakistan, with a view to playing a bigger role as a counterweight to Western influence in the region.
  2. By signing the document for full membership of the SCO, Iran has entered a new stage of various economic, commercial, transit and energy cooperation.
  3. Last year, the central Asian security body approved Iran’s application for accession, while Tehran’s hardline rulers called on members to help it form a mechanism to avert sanctions imposed by the West over its disputed nuclear programme.
  4. Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018, when then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, including Russia and China.