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The Pluto of International Organizations: The Evolution of the SCO

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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This piece investigates the unique peculiarities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Instead of being a Eurasian counterpart to the EU, an additional IO bridge between East and West, or even influenced by organizations like ASEAN, the SCO is dominated by micro-agendas that work in opposition to the theoretical literature explaining international organization purpose.

Consequently, this particular IO has so far not only failed to become a nexus for globalization, democratic respect, or the fight against terror, it really cannot be considered a legitimate IO as is traditionally framed by theory at the present time. When promise is found more in the literature than in empirical reality, there is need for caution. This analysis suggests that there is a present-day tendency to be empirically loose in how the designation ‘international organization’ is applied. As such, the SCO is the ‘Pluto’ of IOs and should be renamed and removed as an international organization if its present course does not radically change.

Looking at the SCO’s relative power sources and how influence interacts with institutional design, it will become clear why the organization does not increase international cooperation, economic prosperity, or global security, as is typically expected from major IOs to strive to. Rather, the manner in which all three of the above goals are undermined by SCO institutional design and internal agendas should call into question whether it should be classified as an IO at all. Renaming it a politically-motivated axis of convenience is less grand but perhaps a more accurate description of its nature and functions.

China

China’s main position within Central Asia is economic, though certain security issues also exist. China is extremely interested in currying favor with Central Asia to help feed its voracious energy appetite. On the other hand issues of ethnic unrest in Xinjiang, China’s western border, make cooperation and mutual understanding with Central Asia strategically advantageous. Thus Central Asia acts as a dual purpose economic-security bridge for China: a bulwark against Uighur and pan-Turkic nationalism/separatism and an energy hub for importing oil and gas.

Russia

Russia has always viewed Central Asia as its own backyard and particular sphere of influence. Thus, the SCO has largely been seen as a soft entry for Russia to maintain and project its military influence into the region. While Central Asia may represent a buffer zone for China’s western flank, it also represents a buffer zone for Russia’s southern flank, in particular against Islamist extremist threats that may look to move into Russia from the region. There is also a clear competitive dynamic with China that has the SCO as the peaceful arena in which Russia tries to keep a warning embrace around it. Some have seen this as a voluntary division of leadership within the SCO: China maintaining economic oversight while Russia assumes the position of primacy in security matters.

Despite these explicit leadership roles, Moscow remains the weaker of the two ‘superpowers’ in comparison to Beijing. It cannot, regardless of propaganda or posturing, oppose China’s emergent economic influence in the region and as such it has largely embraced the SCO not so much because of a strong belief in the relevance of the organization but rather as an easier conduit with which to maintain Moscow-friendly regimes across Central Asia and a decent mechanism to try to keep China from sprinting too far ahead.

Central Asia

Perhaps the most unique ability of the Central Asian members is to simultaneously bargain and balance across multiple fronts. Indeed, the Central Asian states have always been acutely aware of their precarious position in between two major powers while a third distant American power commonly initiates contact because of its own crucial security agenda within the region. The SCO, therefore, has always been a tool for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to attempt to balance China and Russia off of each other and carving out maneuverability space. At the same time, the Stans have not hesitated to engage with the European Union and the United States, striving to expand their options and minimize the possibility of being overwhelmed by the local superpowers. While it is true that Central Asia is largely more sympathetic to Chinese leadership over Russian, it is also true that no major power has single-handedly been able to satisfy all of the diverse needs of the Central Asian states.

The multidirectional policy of bargaining and balancing best serves the interests of the Central Asian states and as such it will likely continue long into the future. After all, the primary economic and security concerns within Central Asia are not unimportant to Russia, China, as well as the United States. These concerns include: Islamic radicalization; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; narcotics trafficking; lagging economic development and investment climates; and pervasive poverty. The obvious criticism is that none of these concerns have been alleviated with the Central Asian states’ involvement in the SCO, despite a decade of existence. The one characteristic that seemed to be an axiom for the SCO – maintaining the political status quo – cannot be considered a given, what with the non-response to civil unrest in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. The possibility that this lack of response to assist could signal a benevolent ignorance on the part of the SCO, tacitly endorsing potential democratization, falls flat: all of the members of the SCO unanimously voiced their concerns and disapproval over the events in Kyrgyzstan. As a result, it marked an IO ‘double whammy’ of hypocrisy: the SCO physically did not come to the aid of a member but then still verbally denounced democratic change.

So far, the SCO identifies as an ineffective organization. That lack of efficiency emerges whether analyzing the institutional design of the SCO or reviewing empirical evidence through case study analysis. The SCO seems to be structured in a manner that undermines its own development, as IO evolution is understood by the scholarly community. The member states simultaneously support and undermine the organization via individualized micro-agendas because of their worries about the tricks each might play upon the other. Interestingly, what the literature does not do is question the legitimacy of the SCO. This is one of the main contentions here: membership of the SCO in the IO community should be questioned instead of simply de facto bestowed. Until now, its membership has always been a given.

Recently, both India and Pakistan have been accepted as future members of the SCO, expecting to be formally incorporated sometime in 2016. There are four other states given ‘Observer Status’ which include Belarus, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mongolia. Finally, there is yet another category called ‘Dialogue Partners,’ including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Aside from a geopolitical alliance that seems to be aiming for the SCO to absorb something that could be called the ‘Greater Caspian Region,’ none of the aforementioned countries, if formal members, can be expected to bring smooth transitions and peaceful cooperative relations between members. If anything, internal SCO relations would only become more chaotic, micro-managed, and potentially zero-sum (does anyone really think India and Pakistan will resolve their differences by being part of the SCO? Armenia and Azerbaijan? Turkey and Iran?). In short, the SCO seems to be evolving in a way to guarantee it remaining one of the most fascinating organizations in the world, but that does not mean it will be effective or outwardly-impactful on the global stage.

The Pluto of IOs?

If the SCO seems to affirm only the negative concerns and detrimental aspects of faulty IO formation and development, while providing little to no empirical evidence of the positive impacts and cooperative influence inherent to most of the general IO literature, then how can the SCO continue to be accepted as a formal IO? The answer is it should not be. There is a present-day tendency to be empirically loose in how the designation ‘international organization’ is applied. This is no small matter: lax empiricism inadequately supported by or even ignoring accepted theoretical underpinnings results not only in misdirected scholarship but actually carries the potential to undermine foreign policy analysis as a whole. Perhaps with the SCO as an initial first step, there can be renewed interest and diligence in looking over the world’s IOs and rigorously applying IO theory to empirical reality as a sort of legitimacy litmus test. Is the SCO the world’s only Pluto? The present analysis finds that highly unlikely. Scientific brethren in astronomy can attest: just because a planet has always been called a planet does not mean it should remain so. If Pluto can be re-designated, then it should not be considered too high a controversy to rename IOs that do not measure up to accepted standards. Whether that new name is ‘politically-motivated axis of convenience’ (P-MAC) or some other moniker matters little: the importance is in shoring up the discipline so that empirical reality and intellectual theory inform each other rather than contradict one another and actual analysis becomes more accurate.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University and was just named the future Co-Editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His work is catalogued at: https://brown.academia.edu/ProfMatthewCrosston/Analytics

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Beating The Drums Of War Against Iran And Pakistan

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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As countries continue their squabbles, their home the earth is going to hell in a handbasket.  A new review paper in Biological Conservation reports 40 percent of insect species are threatened with extinction.  Guess who pollinates our plants where we get our food?

All of which is of little concern to President Trump, who disdains science and experts of any kind.  His vice president has been at the Munich Security Conference where an awkward silence prevailed as he conveyed greetings from Trump and waited for the customary applause.  His speech, focused on hounding Iran, met with polite, muted applause.

Angela Merkel in contrast defended the Iran agreement (which the US has unilaterally abrogated) and talked of maintaining lines of communication without giving up gains already achieved.  Her ambit included Russia and Mr. Putin, and her critique of Trump and his policies received thunderous applause in what was seen as a striking rebuke to ‘America First’.  Some said it was one of her best and thoughtful speeches.

In India, it’s Kashmir again.  Poor Kashmiris.  They tried trusting Nehru and waited … and waited for the promised vote for self-determination; of course Pakistan’s headstrong responses did not help.  They tried peaceful demonstrations and received blinding and sometimes fatal shotgun pellets — not for them just tear gas or the famed Israeli rubber bullets.  What’s left but militancy for which Mr. Modi blames Pakistan his convenient scapegoat.  All too convenient with elections round the corner, he has the country awash in jingoism.  Communal assault often follows in this his tried-and-true election tactic.

Rahul Gandhi the jejune opposition leader is out of his depth as usual.  His only hope is for Mr. Modi to overplay his hand.  All of this despite a general dissatisfaction because the promised economic benefits for the majority have not materialized, and as cell phones multiply, people can actually see the extravagances of the rich.

Mr. Modi threatens to isolate Pakistan and Muhammad bin Salman signs projects and loans worth $20 billion — at the beginning of his visit to Pakistan, the figure touted was $10 billion.  As Theodore Roosevelt used to say, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’ not the reverse.

A rational answer to the Indian subcontinent is a loose confederation of independent states in a cooperative scenario, accruing the benefits of free trade and the particular resources of individual members — not the copycat US ‘most favored nation status’ to be yanked like a toy from a recalcitrant child.  All this when Pakistan has just introduced the very short range Nasr low-yield nuclear-tipped missile designed to decimate a cold start attack.

Instead of the frenetic jumping up and down and undiplomatic meaningless threats, how about a calm and rational peace?

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A lie about an allegation of the IRGC’s support for terrorism

Sajad Abedi

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Recent attacks on the Revolutionary Guards can be viewed from two perspectives. The first perspective is historically and the second, in terms of the behavioral model of regional and sub-regional actors in the current pattern of Western-Asian regional order.

It seems that recent pressures on the Revolutionary Guards as a revolutionary entity are rooted in the fears of Washington and its allies from a revolutionary force. A force whose members go beyond the military equations or even beyond the logic of power in the region to survive the ideals of the revolution and defend oppressed nations.

History has clearly shown that Washington is afraid of IRGC. The force that presents figures such as the martyr Hojaji and a picture of him, while willingly and resolutely prepared for martyrdom, affects the world.

In the past three decades since the Revolutionary Guards have lived, the West has always been afraid of a force that has been inspired by soft power along with its hard power. It is the same force that can bring nations and quickly become a native force in different countries.

The White House knows well that if Hezbollah-Lebanon, Ansarullah-Yemen and many other popular forces were formed on the regional level, they all had the power to influence the pattern of the Revolutionary Guards. The dependence of the classical armies in different countries on the national government does not allow them to operate with flexibility at all times and places, and even if these operations are carried out people in other countries do not welcome the presence of an army that is alien to it.

Territorial frontiers, in terms of modern Islamic civilization, defend the borders of the Islamic Revolution, which are Islamic ideals. It is inevitable that, in the soft power, the IRGC has the power to help not only the oppressed people in Iraq and Syria, but also to meet the people in these countries.

Accordingly, over the past years, Washington has repeatedly tried to use various methods to weaken the popular position of the Revolutionary Guards and to prevent its increasing popularity in the region and beyond.

Soft power strategists in the United States who are well aware that the concept of power in the new age is not only the result of hard power and the soft power of the countries, have so far been attempting to deal with psychological or media methods To disrupt the Revolutionary Guards and scare the peoples of the region from the influence of the Revolutionary Guards. The propaganda included a Shia-based pseudo-propaganda, a lie about the IRGC’s anti-Semitic tendencies, an allegation of the IRGC’s support for terrorism, an illusion about the role of the IRGC in the development of the Persian Empire, and sometimes with numerous contradictory propositions. For example, while the Revolutionary Guards are falsely accused of stirring up ethnic or religious disputes and are being reduced to an ideological force, this rumor is spreading that the Iranian people’s budget is spending on the other people! At the same time, that is an allegation the IRGC want to expand and increase its dominance over Western Asia.

These media never tell their audience that the IRGC is finally the source of Iran’s resources to other countries, or vice versa, seeking to use other countries for the benefit of the Iranian people. In fact, they are not obliged to explain to themselves the obvious fact that unless a powerful force such as the Revolutionary Guards is acting simultaneously in the language of its nation, it is also considering developing the power of this nation.

But along with the historical roots of the Revolutionary Guard, regional realities must also be taken into account. Today, under the circumstances, the Revolutionary Guards are accused of developing ballistic missiles and supporting terrorism, in which Western-backed terrorists have been in the weakest position in the last decade. Unlike a decade ago, the United States is now forced to withdraw its troops from the region. London’s policies have failed to fill the United States in the region due to domestic problems, including the clashes with the European Union, and the Arab-American allies-Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The result of Iran’s resilience to its positions in the region, which is nothing but serious support for the oppressed nations, has caused Iranian regional rivals like Riyadh to seek to modify their behavior towards our country and to improve the areas for improving relations to provide with Iran. Under such circumstances, the Donald Trump administration has concluded that it has lost all its winning leaves to pressure the Revolutionary Guard, and now it cannot impose its power on the Revolutionary Guards even in the Persian-Gulf tensions.

Therefore, the government of Trump tries to launch a wave of economic pressure against this revolutionary institution along with negative propaganda against the IRGC and use this method to weaken the IRGC. However, the principle of the self-sufficiency of the Revolutionary Guards and the lack of dependence of this force on global capitalism has made any sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards ineffective and a scenario for compelling the IRGC to negotiate and retreat has failed.

In such a situation, it seems that maintaining internal cohesion in support of the Revolutionary Guard is the only hope for the people of the region to be able to overcome the domination of foreigners with the help of the soft and hard power of Iran, and to make deep changes in the region.

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Nasr Missile and Deterrence Stability of South Asia

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Pakistan has conducted successful test of short range surface to surface ballistic missile ‘Nasr’ on January 24th, 28th and 31st respectively, as part of the Army Strategic Forces Command training exercise, which included quad salvo on 24 January and single shots on 28 & 31 January, 2019. Quad salvo means that the four missiles were fired together from AR1A/A100-E Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to enhance the operational efficiency of Army Strategic force Command. While single shots means one missile was fired from the vehicle. The aimed of letter tests were for testing in flight maneuverability, including the end flight maneuverability. Nasr has shoot and scoot attributes which mean that the system has a capability of firing and moving away quickly to avoid counter targeting which would be contributing to the weapon’s survivability.The speed and low apogee of the Hatf-IX missile would make it difficult to intercept by all the Indian existing Ballistic Missile Defence system and could defeat S-400 air defence system which is in process.

As South Asia region is consider unstable because of ongoing hostility between India and Pakistan. Though hostility between both states is unending but nuclear weapons have brought stability to a great extent. As India decided to take the nuclear weapons route, Pakistan followed because through nuclear weapons Pakistan successfully neutralized Indian conventional superiority.

In South Asia, security competition between India and Pakistan has been characterised by an action-reaction spiral. Pakistan took the path of nuclear weapons development in order to create balance against militarily superior India. In 2004, India adopted aggressive military doctrine, Pakistan rationally responded by developing Short Range Ballistic Missile Nasr which further strengthen the existing deterrence equation of the region. As Pakistan is not able economically to compete India conventionally, so it always took necessitating reactionary steps to maintain deterrence stability of South Asia.

The purpose of the development of Nasr is defensive because Pakistan would use it to secure its border from Indian conventional aggression. Pakistan Short Range Ballistic Missile Nasr has been criticized by international community that it would increase arms race in South Asia.  But Pakistan developed Nasr to overcome the growing threats from the Indian offensive military doctrine. Cold Start Doctrine forces Pakistan to increase its dependence on nuclear arsenals. General Bipin acknowledged CSD in 2017, was followed by Pakistan’s Nasr test by improving its range from 60 to 70 km which puts cold water on Cold Start. Before official acknowledgement of CSD, Pakistan did not conduct any training tests of Nasr. Pakistan inducted the Nasr missile in its strategic arsenal in 2017and its first training launch was held in July 2017 after the official acknowledgment of CSD from Indian side,  shows that Pakistan developed Nasr only to deter India from initiating a conventional assault against Pakistan. Pakistan does not want to indulge in an arms race rather react to those Indian developments which are threatening its sovereignty. This weapon system has augmented Full Spectrum Deterrence in line with Credible Minimum Deterrence, which means that Pakistan would deter conventional forces (India) by employing nuclear deterrence. Pakistan adopted assertive command and control system on Nasr which means it is centrally controlled which minimize the chances of accidental or unauthorized use.

The latest series of Nasr training tests were response to General Bipin10th January 2019, statement, that the military is launching war games next month to test ‘structures geared towards sudden and swift offensives into enemy territory by Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs). These new structures will be “validated” in military exercises on the ground in May, 2019. As IBGs are the center of Indian offensive military doctrine, which involves initiating rapid military offence from multiple fronts by exploiting the element of surprise and leaving Pakistan with neither the time to respond nor the defensive resources to stop those multiple attacks. Nasr tests are in response to this Indian military announcement as Pakistan solely developed Short Range Ballistic Missile Nasr to deter India from initiating conventional conflict. The recent Nasr tests have frightened Indian commanders because of its capability to defeat all Indian existing Ballistic Missile Defence systems and S-400 air defence system. Hence, deterrence is often in the minds of adversary. As long as Indian leaders continue to be deterred by Nasr, it will continue to be effective.

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