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The China- and Russia-founded BRICS economic bloc has voted to add six new members, more than doubling its membership and adding sanctions-plagued Iran in a move that could undermine U.S. foreign policy.
“As Iran deepens ties not just with Russia and China as well as others in the global south, Washington will have to seriously reconsider its pulled-punches approach with respect to Tehran and get more innovative about pressure,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital.
“The broadening of the BRICS club should be raising eyebrows first and alarm bells second for Washington,” he added.
The organization, named after its five members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has been holding a summit in Johannesburg to tackle a number of key plans that would expand the group’s influence and potentially upset international dynamics – chiefly with the expansion of membership and the potential introduction of a shared currency.
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BRICS announced Thursday that it would look to add six new members to its ranks: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The number would bring the total membership to 11, minimizing the chance for deadlocked votes on issues and pushing the number higher than the G-7, which comprises Western and European allies.
From far right, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and fellow BRICS leaders Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are shown with delegates during the closing day of the BRICS summit, Aug. 24, 2023, in Johannesburg. (Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
The discussions lasted for months, with China and India tabling rival proposals as to how to approach any expansion. Other members argued that China looked to add nations that it considered allies and over which it could exert more influence while India looked to add more developing nations to the group and build up influence.
No matter which path the group took, the expansion paves the way for more countries to seek membership.
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“BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said following the announcement.
Iran’s inclusion has an added layer of helping China and Russia further improve their posturing against U.S. foreign policy: Joining the BRICS bloc would provide Iran easier access to multiple currencies or inclusion in the potential new shared currency that the group has discussed, thus freeing it from the burden of heavy sanctions imposed by the U.S.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, center, attends a meeting during the BRICS summit in Johannesburg on Aug. 24, 2023. (Marco Longari/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
The U.S. hit Iran with multiple sanctions in an effort to force its government to the negotiating table to resurrect the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – also known as the Iran nuclear deal – while also trying to curb its proxy activities in the region.
“Should Iran’s candidacy be seriously considered by BRICS members, it would be more proof of a trend already underway, that Tehran is seeking enmeshment and cover from American adversaries and those who are skeptics of American power,” Taleblu said.
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“In this regard, even being invited to attend a meeting after entering the SCO and spending time rope-a-doping U.S. partners in the region through coercive diplomacy will almost certainly yield a political victory in Iran,” he said.
The U.S. engaged in months of negotiations with Iran over resurrecting the JCPOA, which critics argued against due to the release of frozen financial assets that many feared Iran could use to fund groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and militias within the Shia Liberation Army in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via video link during a press conference on the closing day of the BRICS summit, August 24, 2023, in Johannesburg. (Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted in September 2022 that the talks floundered as negotiations took a step “backwards,” after which no progress has occurred.
A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “The United States reiterates its belief that countries may choose the partners and groupings with whom they will associate. We will continue to work with our partners and allies in bilateral, regional, and multilateral fora to strengthen our shared prosperity and uphold global peace and security.”
The New Development Bank, formerly known as the BRICS Development Bank, serves as an apparatus for the countries to exchange their currencies and help fund public works and local projects with various currencies.
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BRICS on Monday, for example, approved a plan for the bank to provide the first Indian rupee bond by October, which would help improve local currency strength.
The State Department did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment by time of publication.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.