A Comparative Survey of Iran’s Foreign Policy

The fundamental transformation of Iran’s political and economic structures following the establishment of the Islamic regime, and the abrupt rejection of paradigms that had long influenced Iran’s pre-Revolutionary international stance, greatly affected the content, priorities and style of Iran’s foreign policy. Some of the traditional components of Iran’s national interest, particularly rapid economic growth, fast-paced modernization process, and maximization of the country’s international standing and prestige were also abandoned by the new regime. Once in power, the revolutionary leaders redefined Iran’s national interest primarily in terms of the prerequisites for the entrenchment of Islamic values within the society and the export of an Islamist model of government.

Compared with the relatively successful record of the Pahlavi era, in terms of the protection and advancement of Iran’s national interest, the record of the Islamic regime in the first decade of its existence seems to have been marked mostly by a series of failures. In its second decade, however, a number of factors provided the impetus for a reappraisal of the regime's foreign policy objectives. In fact, after the last presidential election, the regime’s "reformist" faction has attempted to couch its foreign policy in terms of Iran’s conventional national interest. However, these changes in the rhetoric and discourse of the Islamic Republic of Iran do not yet seem to represent a definitive consensus by the regime’s leaders on how to alter Iran’s international behavior or priorities. A decisive change in the course of Iran’s foreign policy, therefore, must await the outcome of the current and deepening struggle for power among the regime’s competing factions.

Shireen Hunter
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