The SCO was established by China, Russia, and former Soviet states in Central Asia to pursue political and economic cooperation. India and Pakistan became full members in 2017. For years, Iran has pursued membership, but has only been granted observer status. The political context changed this year with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, seeking an alternative economic system across Asia, and with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The announcement is a boost for Iran’s new Raisi Government, with President Ebrahim Raisi making his first trip abroad since his managed election in June and inauguration in August. In his address to the summit, he lashed out at the “unilateralism” of Iran’s foes, setting it against the “multilateralism” of the SCO.