Tectonic shifts are on the rise in international politics. Recently, Iran applied to join BRICS, a group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. On a global level, BRICS represents 40 percent of the world population and 26 percent of the world economy. According to IMF data, China has the largest economy in this group and accounts for more than 70 percent of the BRICS total worth of around $27.5 trillion, while India comes in second at 13 percent and Russia and Brazil comprise the remaining 7 percent.

With Iran’s entry, more value could be added to BRICS, as it holds around a quarter of the Middle East’s oil reserves and the second-largest global gas reserves. Since joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) last year, this participation in BRICS is Iran’s second step toward the East. Feng Xingke, secretary-general of the World Financial Forum and director of the Center for BRICS and Global Governance, told the Global Times that including Iran in BRICS will mean closer and more effective channels between resources and markets, which will benefit all members. Now here we must give credit to Iran’s foreign policy. The Rouhani administration was trying to pursue a balanced foreign policy and believed that having normal relations with the West is the key to expanding relations with the East and vice versa. But since President Raisi took over last year, Iranian foreign policy has increasingly become anti-Western in the traditional sense of the word. Iran’s moves to join different non-Western groupings, from SCO to BRICS, are presented as the inevitable path the country needs to take in a world in which—as the narrative goes—the West is experiencing a political, economic and moral decline. In that sense, even the JCPOA if revived is a tactical solution, while Eastward policy is strategic.

However, even though it was the 20th anniversary of BRICS last year, its achievements have remained debatable. In 2017, a BRICS plus concept was also introduced to link more emerging economies and build consensus on global development, but the group seems to be hampered by these basic factors.

To start with, China has become the world’s second-largest economic power, while Brazil, Russia and South Africa have remained far behind. Only Beijing has moved forward in the group while other member countries may be large in size but are not equal in wealth. Though there are annual meetings, intra-BRICS economic cooperation has remained very limited. Next, most member countries have divergent political interests. While Russia and China may view it as a forum for “building a more balanced global order,” India is part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad, and is reluctant to be labelled anti-West. And now, New Delhi and Beijing also have an ongoing military standoff at their mutual border—a temporary line called the Line of Actual Control. Discussing why India had joined BRICS, Ashok Swain, professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University in Sweden, told Al-Monitor, “India decided to join BRICS in 2006 when its economy was booming and is expected to catch up with China in economic development.

Russian diplomacy was behind creating this bloc at that time, but not precisely to make it an anti-American grouping. Russia wanted India in it to balance China, for India it was a platform to maintain a cooperative structure with China and Russia while developing its strategic relationship with the West.” Considering Iran’s chemistry with Beijing and Moscow, Swain observed, “Iran will benefit considerably by joining BRICS, as it does not intend to be an ally of the West and its relations with China and Russia are more as a junior ally, not as a competitor. As part of BRICS, there is a lot for Iran to gain, economically and diplomatically.” Ultimately, BRICS could become a club of the world’s largest energy producers and consumers outside the United States. For a while, the forum has been working on a mutual payment system, credit rating agency, currency bank and reserve mechanism. In this way, member countries might escape US sanctions.