World
Nikolai Bobkin
September 21, 2013
© Photo: Public domain

The United States has a custom of putting the countries, which have fallen out of its favor, on the “rogue states” list. Now it risks itself to be subject to international isolation.  The Washington’s world political center status is being lost, the Obama’s policy on Syria has happened to be short-sighted and strategically wrong. The America’s game with “foes of convenience” like Syria and Iran, has failed.  Nobody wants to join the United States in their fight against these states and the US claim to Middle East domination is being rejected more resolutely…   

Not long ago the Syria issue was in the focus of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit that took place in Bishkek. All the member-countries (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) unanimously spoke in favor of political solution, stressing there was no alternative. They endorsed the President Putin’s initiative on finding a way out of Syrian crisis. The member-states leaders were of accord that the crisis was to be solved by peaceful means with the help of diplomacy only without any military intervention.  All six members signed the Bishkek Declaration containing the common assessment of key international problems. The fact displays the high level of mutual trust.

The Bishkek Declaration is a serious argument in favor of strengthening the legal norms that the existing international order is based on, including common principles and the provisions of United Nations Charter. The West still remains under the illusion that NATO is omnipotent, so it is reluctant to consider the Shanghai Organization as an important component of the contemporary international relations system.  It means being behind times against the background of dynamic and drastic changes – an erroneous and even dangerous aberration.   Let me remind to those who go on sticking to double standards that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was founded 12 years ago in order to strengthen stability and security in the immense space encompassing the national territories of permanent member-states, but also the observers: Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. Turkey has recently joined as a dialogue partner – the status granted to Belarus and Sri-Lanka as well. According to expert estimates, its six full members account for 60% of the land mass of Eurasia and its population is a quarter of the world’s. With observer states included, its affiliates account for half of the human race. This should serve as an evidence for Washington that the states of Central Asia, Russia, China, India, Pakistan Iran and Afghanistan reject the policies of incumbent US administration that pose a threat of military intervention into Syria.   The lessons of Iraq tell that the situation in a country subject to US intervention gets not only worse as a result, but rather catastrophic. The very same thing will happen after the NATO (ISAF) forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.

The conflict in Afghanistan, exacerbated by US intervention, was one of key issues of the Shanghai Organization summit in Bishkek. The states of Central and South Asia are concerned about the forces withdrawal in 2014 and what it will lead to.  The instability in Afghanistan is a decisive factor defining the whole regional situation. 

The duration and irreconcilable nature of the conflict, which has ethnic and religious roots, make the Afghan situation one of the most burning issues of contemporary international agenda.  Could the Afghan army maintain at least some semblance of order after the US forces withdraw?  Many analysts are convinced the answer is no.  The Bishkek Declaration states the Shanghai Cooperation Organization stands for Afghanistan becoming an independent, neutral and peaceful state free of terrorism.   The national reconciliation is to be achieved by Afghans themselves so that peace and stability could prevail in this country. As in the case of Syria, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization supports the predominant role of the United Nations leading  the international efforts aimed at political settlement and rendering assistance to restore Afghanistan. This is a foreign policy priority for all SCO member-states.     

The SCO members met Washington half-way and gave the Western coalition the permission to use the ground infrastructure for temporary use by military personnel, as a well as air space for the coalition’s transit flights.  It encompasses the airport of Manas in Kyrgyzstan, the military facilities in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan used by French Air Force and German Bundeswehrin Tajikistan andUzbekistan.  With Americans gone, the brunt of the heavy load related to the support of Afghan government will fall on the shoulders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and, probably, Turkmenistan. These countries will need the support of someone stronger, first of all Russia and China closely cooperating with Iran. The extent of Iranian traditional economic, cultural and political presence in Afghanistan by far exceeds that of other SCO member-states.  At that, Tehran is still not a full-fledged SCO member due to existing United Nations sanctions related to its nuclear program. As time goes by, the relevance of this reason pales. At the Bishkek summit President Rouhani said Iran was ready to provide guarantees proving it has no desire to go nuclear. Time will show if it is enough for reconsideration of the obsolete decision to reject its application for full-fledged permanent membership.  At present Iran confirms its goal to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. 

The Tehran’s participation in the work of SCO summit is viewed as the first opportunity to display to the world the new face of Iranian diplomacy.  President Hassan Rouhani had a good chance to make a successful start in Bishkek, Apart from the agenda, he met President Vladimir Putin personally. The main issue for talks was the nuclear program. Tehran said it wants to find a solution to this problem in accordance with international norms and expects Russia to take new steps in this direction. In his turn President Putin underlined that like any other state Iran has a right to use uranium for peaceful purposes, including its enrichment, “We presume that Iran, the same as any other state, has right to peaceful use of atomic energy, including enrichment operations,” he said. Syria was the dominant issue of the bilateral talks. The positions of the both states fully coincide on the issue of  foreign intervention, the both parties believe it will not only entail escalation in Syria but let it spread beyond its borders as well.  Iran is a close ally of Damascus, no diplomatic settlement of the problem is possible without its participation.   President Vladimir Putin and President Hassan Rouhani endorsed the Syria’s decision to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an arms control agreement banning chemical weapons, and its consent to transfer the chemical arsenal under international control.   One more point of importance: President Rouhani believes it is a must that all the Middle East states liquidate the chemical stockpiles at their disposal. Tehran means Israel first of all.     

In 1992 the government of Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention that the country’s parliament never ratified. The issue could be raised by Russia and Israel at any time in connection with the Syria’s decision to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction.  Israel has said it cannot refuse the weapons till the unfriendly neighbors had it in their inventories, meaning Syria, first of all. Now the situation is changed, it has no justification for maintaining the deadly arsenal.   It would be interesting to see the reaction of Obama’s administration to a Russia-Iran joint initiative in the United Nations putting forward a proposal to transfer the Israeli arsenal under international control.

Summing it all up, one can state that the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that was held against the background of  Syria’s situation being exacerbated,  proved the growing influence of this international body on shaping a new pattern of regional security. Perhaps, the time has come to tackle the issue of granting the status of full member to Iran, as well as to other observer states. Their membership would make possible to fully use their political and economic potentials to guarantee security in Central and South Asia. 

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
World Balance Reshaped

The United States has a custom of putting the countries, which have fallen out of its favor, on the “rogue states” list. Now it risks itself to be subject to international isolation.  The Washington’s world political center status is being lost, the Obama’s policy on Syria has happened to be short-sighted and strategically wrong. The America’s game with “foes of convenience” like Syria and Iran, has failed.  Nobody wants to join the United States in their fight against these states and the US claim to Middle East domination is being rejected more resolutely…   

Not long ago the Syria issue was in the focus of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit that took place in Bishkek. All the member-countries (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) unanimously spoke in favor of political solution, stressing there was no alternative. They endorsed the President Putin’s initiative on finding a way out of Syrian crisis. The member-states leaders were of accord that the crisis was to be solved by peaceful means with the help of diplomacy only without any military intervention.  All six members signed the Bishkek Declaration containing the common assessment of key international problems. The fact displays the high level of mutual trust.

The Bishkek Declaration is a serious argument in favor of strengthening the legal norms that the existing international order is based on, including common principles and the provisions of United Nations Charter. The West still remains under the illusion that NATO is omnipotent, so it is reluctant to consider the Shanghai Organization as an important component of the contemporary international relations system.  It means being behind times against the background of dynamic and drastic changes – an erroneous and even dangerous aberration.   Let me remind to those who go on sticking to double standards that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was founded 12 years ago in order to strengthen stability and security in the immense space encompassing the national territories of permanent member-states, but also the observers: Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. Turkey has recently joined as a dialogue partner – the status granted to Belarus and Sri-Lanka as well. According to expert estimates, its six full members account for 60% of the land mass of Eurasia and its population is a quarter of the world’s. With observer states included, its affiliates account for half of the human race. This should serve as an evidence for Washington that the states of Central Asia, Russia, China, India, Pakistan Iran and Afghanistan reject the policies of incumbent US administration that pose a threat of military intervention into Syria.   The lessons of Iraq tell that the situation in a country subject to US intervention gets not only worse as a result, but rather catastrophic. The very same thing will happen after the NATO (ISAF) forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.

The conflict in Afghanistan, exacerbated by US intervention, was one of key issues of the Shanghai Organization summit in Bishkek. The states of Central and South Asia are concerned about the forces withdrawal in 2014 and what it will lead to.  The instability in Afghanistan is a decisive factor defining the whole regional situation. 

The duration and irreconcilable nature of the conflict, which has ethnic and religious roots, make the Afghan situation one of the most burning issues of contemporary international agenda.  Could the Afghan army maintain at least some semblance of order after the US forces withdraw?  Many analysts are convinced the answer is no.  The Bishkek Declaration states the Shanghai Cooperation Organization stands for Afghanistan becoming an independent, neutral and peaceful state free of terrorism.   The national reconciliation is to be achieved by Afghans themselves so that peace and stability could prevail in this country. As in the case of Syria, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization supports the predominant role of the United Nations leading  the international efforts aimed at political settlement and rendering assistance to restore Afghanistan. This is a foreign policy priority for all SCO member-states.     

The SCO members met Washington half-way and gave the Western coalition the permission to use the ground infrastructure for temporary use by military personnel, as a well as air space for the coalition’s transit flights.  It encompasses the airport of Manas in Kyrgyzstan, the military facilities in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan used by French Air Force and German Bundeswehrin Tajikistan andUzbekistan.  With Americans gone, the brunt of the heavy load related to the support of Afghan government will fall on the shoulders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and, probably, Turkmenistan. These countries will need the support of someone stronger, first of all Russia and China closely cooperating with Iran. The extent of Iranian traditional economic, cultural and political presence in Afghanistan by far exceeds that of other SCO member-states.  At that, Tehran is still not a full-fledged SCO member due to existing United Nations sanctions related to its nuclear program. As time goes by, the relevance of this reason pales. At the Bishkek summit President Rouhani said Iran was ready to provide guarantees proving it has no desire to go nuclear. Time will show if it is enough for reconsideration of the obsolete decision to reject its application for full-fledged permanent membership.  At present Iran confirms its goal to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. 

The Tehran’s participation in the work of SCO summit is viewed as the first opportunity to display to the world the new face of Iranian diplomacy.  President Hassan Rouhani had a good chance to make a successful start in Bishkek, Apart from the agenda, he met President Vladimir Putin personally. The main issue for talks was the nuclear program. Tehran said it wants to find a solution to this problem in accordance with international norms and expects Russia to take new steps in this direction. In his turn President Putin underlined that like any other state Iran has a right to use uranium for peaceful purposes, including its enrichment, “We presume that Iran, the same as any other state, has right to peaceful use of atomic energy, including enrichment operations,” he said. Syria was the dominant issue of the bilateral talks. The positions of the both states fully coincide on the issue of  foreign intervention, the both parties believe it will not only entail escalation in Syria but let it spread beyond its borders as well.  Iran is a close ally of Damascus, no diplomatic settlement of the problem is possible without its participation.   President Vladimir Putin and President Hassan Rouhani endorsed the Syria’s decision to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an arms control agreement banning chemical weapons, and its consent to transfer the chemical arsenal under international control.   One more point of importance: President Rouhani believes it is a must that all the Middle East states liquidate the chemical stockpiles at their disposal. Tehran means Israel first of all.     

In 1992 the government of Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention that the country’s parliament never ratified. The issue could be raised by Russia and Israel at any time in connection with the Syria’s decision to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction.  Israel has said it cannot refuse the weapons till the unfriendly neighbors had it in their inventories, meaning Syria, first of all. Now the situation is changed, it has no justification for maintaining the deadly arsenal.   It would be interesting to see the reaction of Obama’s administration to a Russia-Iran joint initiative in the United Nations putting forward a proposal to transfer the Israeli arsenal under international control.

Summing it all up, one can state that the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that was held against the background of  Syria’s situation being exacerbated,  proved the growing influence of this international body on shaping a new pattern of regional security. Perhaps, the time has come to tackle the issue of granting the status of full member to Iran, as well as to other observer states. Their membership would make possible to fully use their political and economic potentials to guarantee security in Central and South Asia.