The Islamic Republic of Iran, formerly known as Persia, is one of by 6GRR8e58


									                              University of Ljubljana
                             Faculty of social sciences

                      Author: Nina Bakovnik, 21040080

                    Mentor: Zlatko Šabič, Professor, Ph.D.

                  Foreign policy profile of Iran

Subject: International Organizations

                          Ljubljana, November 2007
The Islamic Republic of Iran, formerly known as Persia, is one of the world’s oldest major
civilizations with an extremely rich cultural heritage and an important geostrategic position in
the Eurasian area. Iran plays a substantial role in international energy security and world
economy due to its large reserves of crucial natural resources, petroleum and natural gas. In
the international community Iran has a reputation of being extremely independent in its
positions and is at the moment a strong regional power.1

Foreign policy of Iran has throughout the history shifted between revolutionary and non-
revolutionary one. The pro-Western foreign policy, led by the Shah in a political system of
absolute monarchy, which was being pursued since the Second World War, was replaced after
the Islamic revolution, when the religious dictator Khomeini took charge of the country. His
foreign policy, which was especially hard and ambitious, striving to spread the Islamic
revolution to other countries and supporting mostly Shia but also Sunni militants in other
countries (for example the controversial Hezbollah militia in Lebanon), reached its peak in the
Iran-Iraq war in 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran due to uncertain sovereignty over the waterway
between the countries. During the war Iran became completely isolated, as even the United
States (US) supplied Iraq with chemical weapons. Iran’s defeat in the war as well as
Khomeini’s death in 1989 thus brought about another change in the policy’s direction, this
time to a more defensive and pragmatic type of foreign policy. Iran’s new foreign policy, led
by a reformist semi-democratic government, significantly improved its political and economic
relations with the European Union (EU), China, India and Russia and its overall position in
the international community.2

Since the end of the period of dictatorship the key decision-maker of foreign policy in Iran is
the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), which is currently under the leadership of
Ali Larijani and is in general composed of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
military leaders. SNSC works in close coordination with the country’s Supreme Leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who also has the right and duty to final confirmation of all
decisions, however the decisions are usually made by consensus.3 Although many claim that
the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is fostering some kind of revolutionary

  Wikipedia (2007) Iran. (31. 10. 2007).
  Wikipedia (2007) Foreign relations of Iran. (31. 10.
  Beehner, Lionel (2006) Iran's Multifaceted Foreign Policy. (31. 10.
foreign policy, the President has on the contrary very little influence on the foreign policy of
Iran due to the aforementioned structure of decision-making.

In broad terms, Iran's foreign policy can be summed up in three main guidelines: opposing
the US due to its military power, which threatens Iran in the Persian Gulf, and Israel due to
its strong position to support the Palestinians; pursuing elimination of outside influence in the
region, as “Iran sees itself as a regional power and opposes the influence of global powers
such as the US or the United Kingdom in its region. It seeks to reduce their presence in the
Persian Gulf wherever possible.”4; and maintaining friendly diplomatic contacts with
developing and non-aligned countries, due to Iran’s effort to build and expand trade and
political support. Iran's foreign policy is furthermore mainly focused on relations with other
states in the region and on relations with other Islamic countries. This includes its active
participation in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Alignment
Movement (NAM).5

September the 11th and the following war on terror, led by the US and its allies, also
influenced contemporary Iranian foreign policy in a large way. It brought new conflicts and
new insecurities to the already unstable region and labeled Iran as a part of the ‘axis of evil’,
that is why Iran needed to adapt its policy in order to successfully sustain its national security.
These adjustments were mainly: a flexible policy towards the US; deepening the alliance and
cooperation with Russia and the EU; improving Iran’s role in the international community,
especially in international organizations; improving relations with the Arab world, Turkey,
Pakistan and Iraq; regional cooperation and new security arrangements, including military
build-up. On account of being surrounded with pro-American countries, Iran pursued
preventive diplomacy in order to attain the status of neutrality and peaceful disarmament of
Iraq. The idea of expanding regional economic cooperation to security cooperation also arose
from this situation, yet for the time being it remains only as an ongoing issue, which Iran is
dealing with.6

  Wikipedia (2007) Foreign relations of Iran. (31. 10.
  Wikipedia (2007) Foreign relations of Iran. (31. 10.
    Afrasiabi, Kaveh and Maleki Abbas (2003) Iran's Foreign Policy After 11 September. (31. 10. 2007).
Nevertheless, Iran is still involved with many of the armed groups in the Middle East, though
not in the same manner or for the same reason as during the Khomeini’s rule. It is not trying
to export its revolution, but it merely wants to have armed allies, who are capable of
mobilizing their troops, if war should happen to arise, especially on the Israel’s border. Iran is
also maintaining bilateral relations with its neighboring states in order to progressively gain
on its regional dominance, on account of which it would then be able to counter the United
States in the region.7

Relations with the United States

Political relations between Iran and the US began in the 19th century and have mostly
remained friendly and cooperative until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The exception was in
the period after the Second World War, when Iran became democratic for a brief period of
time, opposite to its usual political system of absolute monarchy. At that point Iran pursued to
nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, but the US and Britain would not allow this to
happen, that is why they conspired against Iran in order to overthrow its government, which
they eventually succeeded to do and brought back dictatorship to Iran. At that point a strong
hatred of Iranian people towards the US started growing.8 Nevertheless cultural relations
between the countries remained well. Before the revolution Carter’s administration also
aggravated the relations, as it was very critical towards the Shah, especially concerning
human rights issues. After the revolution, when Khomeini became the leader of Iran, a few
incidents took place, which further worsened the already existing tensions between Iran and
the US, namely: the Iran hostage crisis, when Muslim students took over American embassy,
after which the US broke diplomatic contacts with Iran; the Hezbollah bombings, in which
many Americans were killed, and were allegedly supported by the Iran; and the Iran air flight
655 tragedy, in which the US shot down an Iranian commercial airplane, along with many
economic sanctions imposed upon Iran by the US. The reformist Iranian government,
following the death of Khomeini, raised high hopes for the improvement of relations between
countries, yet this had not occurred in a wished intensity. On the contrary, since George W.
Bush came to power in the US, the relations keep on worsening. The US is continually taking

    Abbas, William Samii (2007) Iranian foreign policy:               not   so   revolutionary     anymore. (31. 10. 2007).
       Hornberger,    Jacob    G.     (2005)      An      Anti-Democracy    Foreign      Policy:      Iran. (31. 10. 2007).
aggressive actions against Iran due to its alleged support of terrorism, subversive activities in
the Persian Gulf and most importantly its nuclear program, which is perceived by the US as
being of military rather than civilian nature. On the other hand Iran keeps making series of
peaceful proposals to the US in effort to manage their differences, among them an offer to
help stabilize Iraq after the invasion in 2003.9

Relations with the European Union

There have been no contractual relations between Iran and the EU since the time, when Shah
ruled Iran. However a Comprehensive dialogue had been established in 1995 and extended in
1997 between the reformist government of Iran and the EU, which gives way to a constructive
debate of both sides concerning global issues (such as terrorism and human rights), regional
issues (for example the Middle East Peace Process) and possible areas of cooperation (for
example energy). This Dialogue improved relations between Iran and the EU, yet it is very
limited. The need for a contractual relation remains important. President Khatami, elected in
1997, also made a significant positive impact on the relations between countries, as he made
relations with EU a major policy objective.10 Unfortunately, the dialogue has not quite
reached its fulfillment, as it was suspended by Iran in 2003. Since then, the relations between
Iran and the EU have been focusing mostly on Iran’s nuclear program, as the EU is pursuing
to convince Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Nevertheless, the EU remains Iran’s main
trading partner, as well as partner in the fight against narcotics and in Afghan refugee
assistance program.11

Relations with the Russian Federation

The beginnings of political relations between Iran and Russia reach far back in the 16 th
century; however they were not friendly and cooperative until the end of the Iran-Iraq war, as
territorial and ideological aspirations of Russia towards Iran were preventing such
development. After the Iran-Iraq war and more so after the Cold war diplomatic and
commercial relations between the countries intensively increased, this includes Iran’s

    Wikipedia (2007) U.S.-Iran relations. (31. 10. 2007).
   Commission of the European Communities (2001) EU Relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. (2. 11. 2007).
          European        Commision          (2007)       The        EU's       relations with Iran. (2. 11. 2007).
purchasing of weapons and peaceful nuclear technology in Russia as well as Russia’s support
for Iran’s nuclear program. Nowadays Russia is one of the larger trade partners of Iran,
especially in the energy and transportation fields, while the two countries also share interest in
limiting political influence of the US in international community and most importantly in
Central Asia.12 On account of this common interest partnership between Iran and Russia has
further increased after September the 11th and even caused Iran to take a step back from its
standing point on the Caspian Sea ownership issue (borders between Iran, Azerbaijan and
Turkmenistan have not yet been determined, but Iran is pursuing to solve the problem
peacefully through negotiations), while it had furthermore been given the observer status in
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an intergovernmental mutual security
organization, dominated by Russia and China. Nevertheless, Iran remains skeptical about its
alliance with Russia, due to its previous bad experience and possible future results of the US
pressure upon Russia regarding its ties with Iran.13

Relations with neighboring Arab countries

Iran’s relations with neighboring Arab countries have always been controversial, largely due
to seemingly eternal conflicts among different Muslim denominations as well as due to
countries’ aspirations after the rich natural resources of the Persian Gulf. The worst
illustration of such relations was the Iran-Iraq war, consequences and issues of which are still
present today, although Iran and Iraq restored diplomatic contacts in 1990 and Iran expressed
significant effort in helping and supporting Iraq after the US invasion in 2003. Nevertheless,
Iran’s relations with neighboring Arab states have recently improved, excluding some
expressed doubts of these countries concerning Iran’s nuclear program. Exceptional are the
United Arab Emirates, which are in an ongoing territorial conflict with Iran regarding three
Islands in the Persian Gulf.14

Iran and international conflict management

     Wikipedia (2007) Russia-Iran relations. (2. 11. 2007).
     Afrasiabi, Kaveh and Maleki Abbas (2003) Iran's Foreign Policy After 11 September. (2. 11. 2007).
   Wikipedia (2007) Iran-Arab relations. (2. 11. 2007).
Since the 1990’s Iran has been proving its determination to play a new, different kind of role
in the international community, namely by its active participation in international conflict
management, on inter as well as intra-state level. A few examples of this are Iran’s mediating
roles in the Tajikistan civil war and in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It has
moreover clearly shown its peace aspirations in Afghanistan, when attacked by the US in
2001, and by calling upon the world to stop the Taliban government. With such actions Iran
has confirmed its role of preserving security and stability in the region. A great help to Iran’s
new role of conflict management was also the OIC, on account of which Iran was able to
initiate several fact-finding missions in order to explore conflicts, as well as aggressively
address global terrorism.15

Iran’s nuclear power program

In the 1950’s Iran launched a nuclear program, which was abandoned for a little while after
the revolution and later on revived. The objective of the program is to produce electricity for
Iranian people in time of rapid increase of Iran’s population and due to growing
industrialization processes. However, this issue has recently become of international
importance, while it is generally perceived in the international community, that the uranium
enrichment processes, taking place in the name of this program, might be in the future
exploited for the purposes of developing nuclear weapon. Although severe pressures are being
brought upon Iran by the international community, especially the US, Iran is refusing to give
up its right to uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes, passed to it by the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a party. On this account sanctions have been imposed
upon Iran by the United Nations, although the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
which monitors such happenings, has not found any evidence until October 2007 that the
program would be of military nature.16

List of references:

     Afrasiabi, Kaveh and Maleki Abbas (2003) Iran's Foreign Policy After 11 September. (2. 11. 2007).
   Wikipedia (2007) Nuclear Program of Iran. (2. 11.
Abbas, William Samii (2007) Iranian foreign policy: not so revolutionary anymore. (31. 10. 2007).

Afrasiabi, Kaveh and Maleki Abbas (2003) Iran's Foreign Policy After 11 September. (31. 10. 2007).

Beehner,         Lionel        (2006)       Iran's       Multifaceted        Foreign          Policy, (31. 10. 2007).

Commission of the European Communities (2001) EU Relations with the Islamic Republic of
Iran. (2. 11. 2007).

European         Commision        (2007)         The      EU's       relations         with     Iran. (2. 11. 2007).

Hornberger,      Jacob    G.     (2005)     An      Anti-Democracy      Foreign    Policy:      Iran. (31. 10. 2007).

Wikipedia             (2007)              Foreign           relations             of            Iran. (31. 10. 2007).

Wikipedia (2007) Iran, (31. 10. 2007)

Wikipedia (2007) Iran-Arab relations. (2.
11. 2007).

Wikipedia             (2007)              Nuclear           Program               of            Iran. (2. 11. 2007).

Wikipedia (2007) Russia-Iran relations.
(2. 11. 2007).

Wikipedia (2007) U.S.-Iran relations. (31.
10. 2007).

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