May 24, 2019

Iran’s foreign policy

By Corneliu Pivariu.  

On the background of the developments in the Middle East during the last years, the beginning of 2019 was marked as well by the 40 years anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which led to the Shah’s overthrowing and the establishment of the Khomeini’s Islamic regime with all the consequences and implications such a development supposed, including in what foreign policy was concerned.

The most important shift in foreign policy was exiting from the American sphere of influence and the gradual building up of its own foreign policy the way it was and is still  seen by the Iranian political and religious leaders. Two main approaches are noticed on this background: ”reactive defense”, based on the principle of recting to the instability and insecurity in the region in order to turn possible danger and threat situations to the regime in Tehran into a safer and more stable environment, with predictible developments; “proactive revolutionary attitude”, which develops and supports the issue of Iran’s regional involvement, justified by regional competences considered to belong inherently to the country.

 As far as the first approach is concerned, we notice some major elements: Iraq; other countries in the Middle East (prioritising Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries – with a special emphasis on Bahrein) and Afghanistan.

  Iraq is considered the most challenging country with most opportunities as well for the Iranian regime and the situation of the relations between Tehran and Baghdad is extremely complex and is carried out on four major, interdependent levels but with interference nuances among them: at state’s level; among parties/politicians; at religious level; militarily. Managing such an intricate type of relations is a major task for the leadership of the two countries, especially taking into account that the USA tries to maintain its influence over the regime in Baghdad and to contain as much as possible (without any notable success) the Iranian influence.

  Syria and Lebanon are considered to be of strategic importance to Iran on the background of the Iranian perceptions concerning the threats it has to face, and the first two of them are the USA and Israel. The developments of the situation in Syria and the special relations Tehran has with the Lebanese Hezbollah and with Hamas movement in Gaza are essential elements of the Iranian foreign policy and the country will rely on them in the coming period, too.

  As far as the revolutionary proactive attitude is concerned, the advocates of this approach list the following arguments: the size of the population, their great educational level and the rich natural resources of the country; history and the long-standing imperial traditions; the geopolitical situation combined with a powerful and well trained military force. It is on this background that Iran consider it was invited by the countries in the region to have a military and of other nature presence on their territory, aimed at protecting their territorial integrity and national identity, and Syria is the iconic example to that purpose. 

  40 years after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the revolutionary spirit is still strongly felt within the Iranian society under different motivations, from the belief in the goals of the Islamic revolution to personal or group interests, including benefits of material or investment nature. There is, at the same time, another segment of the society, especially of those born after 1979 who do not understand why their parents called for the Islamic Revolution.

 It seems that, in terms of regional policy, Tehran adopt a rational and pragmatic position in which president Hassan Rouhani’s administration backs rather the reactive defence position than the revolutionary one, without excluding the latter, depending on opportunities.

Corneliu Pivariu, Photographer Ionus Paraschiv

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