Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Ideology and Realpolitik in Iranian Foreign Policy,’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 69, No. 1 (2015), pp. 88-103.
Publication year: 2015

The Islamic Republic of Iran has pursued full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). In doing so, Iran has appeared to be unfazed by the prospect of allying with Russia and China, two countries which have systematically suppressed their Muslim minorities for decades. Similarly, the SCO’s Central Asian member states are led by individual leaders who are generally believed to rule in spite of their populations. As a result, Iran’s eagerness to join the SCO may appear to contradict its self-promoted image as the champion of Muslim interests, but in reality it sits nicely within its overarching enmity for the USA. Indeed, the SCO is seen as a geopolitical counterweight to the USA. For Iran, this geopolitical opportunity overrides ideological imperatives, with the gap between ideology and geopolitics most evident under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.