The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) may soon expand to include Pakistan, and more importantly Iran. Iran is already an observer nation, but full-fledged membership would definitely have a big impact on the region, as well as any future role for the SCO. Larison disagrees:
Granting Iran membership would be seen in the West as a provocative move, but a good question is why anyone should be provoked by it. The SCO is not a full-fledged military alliance or defensive pact, and it has existed primarly as a mechanism to consolidate Russian and Chinese political and economic influence in Central Asia. At the moment, it is a limited security and economic structure.
This is all true – the SCO isn’t even on par with the CIS or other limited regional IGOs. But seeing as one of the main purposes of the organization is to provide China and Russia a multilateral forum for pressuring much of Central Asia, this only increases their ability to do so. I think the way to look at this isn’t so much as Iran gaining influence and legitimacy, but rather another big country on the periphery of Central Asia able to provide additional leverage for Russia and China. A shrinking of Central Asian security.
But the most interesting wrinkle might be that for Iran it can’t be about oil, unless they know something about their reserves we don’t. Larison’s observation that it’s Russia pushing for Iranian membership with the Chinese more reluctant points to some interesting energy politics. Could Russia be looking at Iran as their Kazakhstan?
Sorry for the incredibly long delay. Between flying, driving, holidays, and snow, I haven’t had much time to post or write much.
I have, however, had plenty of time to catch up on some reading. I finally finished Military Orientalism, and while it seems a bit rushed towards the end, it’s an excellent, insightful analysis that is well worth your time. I’ll have a review up shortly.
Rounding off an excellent Christmas, I received a ton of books for both the holiday and my recent birthday (which I’d otherwise prefer not to think about). The plane ride was enough time to finish Michael Crichton’s new posthumous Pirate Latitudes, which was a great, quick read. Yesterday I was still on a fiction kick, so I finally got around to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. It’s even better than I had imagined, and my only regret is that I’d put it off for so long.
Currently, I’m in the middle of John Robb’s Brave New War (it’s about time, no?) and Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible.
Other books that I now own and am waiting to dive into:
Marcus Aurelius – The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations
Allan Dulles – The Craft of Intelligence
Alistair Horne – The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916
Theodore Roosevelt – The Naval War of 1812
Russell Weigley – The American Way of War
Here’s some food for thought (before an absurdly huge links collection tomorrow): Ray Kurzweil declares solar power on the verge of providing 100% of human energy needs. One more benefit of solar? It’s decentralized and “safe from disaster and sabotage.” No more Iraqi pipelines?