June 19, 2006

What is the SCO?

It's the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and some of the increased attention it has been attracting in the U.S. media and the blogosphere is owing to its recent involvement with Iran. Peter Brookes of the New York Post describes what has been called the Club for Dictators. (via Regime Change Iran)

Some see it as a NATO counterweight. Others call it a Club for Dictators - or at least near-dictators. Some consider it an anti-American stalking horse for Chinese and or Russian hegemony, with the potential to become "OPEC with nukes."

Whatever: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - a so-called "anti-terrorism, anti-separatism, anti-extremism" grouping, including China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which holds its fifth annual meeting this week - definitely reeks of trouble for Uncle Sam.

Start with this: The "anti-terrorism" SCO has given observer status to Iran, the world's top state sponsor of terrorism - including an annual convention of just about every terror group on the planet.

Then consider the wider strategic implications. Beijing and Moscow are using the SCO as a tool to eliminate U.S. influence in the Eurasian heartland - the home to half the world's population, a key front in the War on Terror and the location of key world energy supplies.

The SCO formally agreed at last year's summit to reverse America's post-9/11 military presence in Central Asia. Soon after, Uzbekistan closed Karshi Khanabad airbase to U.S. forces. Now the rulers of Extortistan - er, Kyrgyzstan - are trying to raise the price of the U.S. lease on Manas airbase rent from $2 million to $200 million a year.

The United States has asked to participate in some meaningful way in the SCO since 2005, such as observing meetings or military exercises - and been flatly denied.

The SCO has offered observer status to India and Pakistan as well as Iran, and discussed full-membership for all. Iran and Pakistan are keen to join - and may be offered the chance later this year.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may push for membership at this week's session - it would help scuttle U.S. and European Union pressure over Tehran's nuclear program. (He's unlikely to get the green light - just yet.)

In many regards, he'd fit right in: You won't hear any awkward questions about democracy or human rights at the SCO - not a peep about oppressed Uighurs, Tibetans and Chechens, or about last year's crackdown in Andijan, Uzbekistan.

Two other recent pieces on the SCO can be seen at TCS and at Front Page Magazine. The FPM article by Robert T. McLean features this recent quote from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

It strikes me as passing strange that one would want to bring into an organization that says it’s against terrorism, one of the nations that’s the leading terrorist nation in the world: Iran. On the other hand, there are other organizations that do that. The United Nations has committees … But I just can’t imagine -- here you have Iran that, by everyone’s testimony, is the leading terrorist nation in the world; it’s supporting Hamas, it’s supporting Hezbollah, it has a long record of being engaged in terrorist activities. And to think that they should be brought into an organization with the hope that it would contribute to an anti-terrorist activity strikes me as unusual.

Posted by dan at June 19, 2006 5:51 PM