This proposal will explore Iran’s foreign policy over the years under the leadership of its various presidents. Developing of the Islamic Republic came after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, there was a dramatic reversal of the pro-Western foreign policy of Iran’s last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Under his regime, Iran’s foreign policy repeatedly emphasized the abolition of foreign influence and the spread of Islamic upheaval over state-to-state associations or the furtherance of trade. The country’s policies since then have alternated between the two counteracting tendencies of revolutionary eagerness, which would abolish Western and non-Muslim, while endorsing the Islamic revolution abroad, and also pragmatism, which would move forward economic development and the normalization of relations.
Iran was full of drama in 1980 to 1981. Banisadr in 1980 survived two helicopter crashes somewhere near the Iran-Iraq border. He had been elected as the president in the beginning of the year with Khomeini holding the Supreme Leader position. Later in 1981, he and Khomeini fell out when Khomeini reclaimed back the power of Commander in Chief. The Iranian government brought back Banisadr in June 1981, which was headed by Khomeini. All political parties were outlawed save for the Islamic Republic Party. Banisadr finally resorted to exile in Paris on 27 July. He contended a concealed dealing with Ronald Reagan presidential campaign and leaders in Tehran to lengthen the Iran hostage crisis previous to the 1980 U.S presidential elections. He tactically denounced the Iranian governments conduct publicly after the disputed presidential election. Specifically, Bani Sadr said that Khomeini had rigged the presidential election as well as the protests that came after. He added that Khomeini proclaimed to solely hold onto power by violence and terror means. He emphasized that the leaders accumulated wealth to themselves at the expense of the Iranians.
It is therefore imperative to understand the manner in which the past Iranian presidents dealt with foreign policy and how such relations have contributed to the well being of the country. This is the only way to understand the patterns of foreign policy in Iran through comparing the two presidents during their reigning eras and establishing the strong and the weak points.
i. How did the Iranian presidents formulate foreign policy that governed their relationship as a state with other international states?
ii. Was there democracy and legitimacy in the appointment of leaders who were to represent the state of Iran in international debates that was to ensure good foreign policy?
iii. What can the Iranians do as citizens to avoid a repeat of the drama that occurred in 1981 including the protests in future?
i. There is a stable foreign policy arrangement in Iran.
ii. Legitimacy and democracy are the governing principles in the appointment of leaders to all positions of the government including the presidency.
iii. Regardless of the fact that the nation appreciates foreign policy, it is sovereign and makes independent decisions in matters related to its internal operations.
iv. Presidents seek consolidation of their power by gaining domestic popularity through thorough campaigning and presentation of their manifestos prior to the electioneering period.
v. There is a system for ensuring checks and balances for the presidential position.
vi. Despite the religion of the state, there is freedom of affiliation to any political party that individuals are pleased with.
The patterns of the foreign policy formulated and applied by nations in the international arena is an area of study that has gained increased preeminence in the 21st century (Asghandi, n.d). According to Hannova (p. 2) the nation of Iran is one of the nations that have attracted increased attention, not just in the Middle East but in the whole world, albeit for all the wrong reasons. The most controversial debate involving the nation of Iran is the nation’s development of a nuclear program, an act believed to threaten the security of Europe in particular and other parts of the world in general. Hunter (1990) claims that in order to understand the patterns of its foreign policy the nation of Iran’s foreign policy should be analyzed in its historical context. Iran was initially one of the most civilized empires of its time in the 6th and 5th centuries BC before being attacked by forces such as Alexander the Great, Turks, Mongolians and Afghans. In the early 20th century the nation became a Russian and British colony and was divided in the year 1907.
The first foreign policy strategies in Iran were created in the 1920s when the modern state of Iran was created by Reza Khan. This history has greatly affected the foreign policy frameworks developed by modern day Iran. According to Hunter (p. 21) the territorial integrity concerns and independence in Iran since the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah have played a significant role in the foreign policy of Iran over the years (Gasiorowski, 1991).
Iran’s position on the conflicts clouding the Arab Spring has also been a very controversial one. More over, Hannova (p. 2) points out that Iran has in recent years been typified by an intensifying dialogue with international actors as well as its regional neighbors as well as a myriad of social, political and fiscal challenges. In spite of the challenges that the Iranian nation is confronted with in the present day, the Iranian President and political system have depicted a great commitment in portraying the nation of Iran as one that is committed to positive transformation greater involvement in international affairs (Kemp, 1994). Nevertheless, the opposition from many nations in the international arena regarding Iran’s nuclear activities has led many actors in the global field to transform their attitudes and perceptions of Iran.
A number of nations in the international arena, particularly Israel and the United States of America, perceive Iran as a threat mostly due to its suspicious nuclear activities as well as its defiant and apprehensive mindset towards the current world order. Hannova (p. 2) further states that Iran is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement; this is a movement that is opposed to any major power blocs in the world (George, 1993).
Waltz (2012) reveals that subsequent to the 1979 Revolution in Iran the Iranian foreign policy has always been inclined towards the perception that it ought to be exclusively founded upon the philosophy and principles of Islam as opposed to being dependent on the nations associations with either the socialist East of capitalistic West. Hannova (p. 5) claims that it is for this reason that the position of Iran and its foreign policy pattern is not only interesting but also extraordinary. Perthes (p. 95) posits that on one side of the coin Iran is a nation that continuously refutes that its foreign policy has a materialistic and power-centric vision; the other side of the coin is the realist depict of Iran as a nation that fully possess the ability to arm itself (Hannova, p. 5). According to Hosseini and Seyed (p. 183) many nations of the world perceive the nation of Iran as being in pursuit of regional leadership in the Arab Spring with its ultimate intention being the establishment of an Ummah (a united world community) that will be free from he influences and authority of the west.
3.0.0 Patterns of Iran’s foreign policy
Beehner (p. 1) indicates that the foreign policy in Iran is formulated and established by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). In the Present day the Iranian Supreme National Security Council is led by Ali Larijan has very close associations with the Supreme leader in Iran- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei- who makes the last judgment on all decisions made by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council. According to Sadjadpour (2009) - who works as an analyst with the International Crisis Group, “Ayatollah Khamenei riles the country [Iran] very much like a CEO” (Beehner, 2006)? This section of the paper will discuss in detail the foreign policy of Iran under the leadership of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Abulhassa Banisadr and finally the current foreign policy by President Ahmadinejad.
Moshaver (p. 287) asserts that during the era of Khomeini domestic politics was emphasized at the expense of foreign policy and related affairs in Iran. The success of the 1979 revolution had been a consequence of the collaboration and contributions by different forces in the Iranian society and it was important to ensure the stabilization of domestic politics in Iran. Under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, there was a dramatic reversal of the pro-Western foreign policy of Iran’s last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Under his regime, Iran’s foreign policy repeatedly emphasized the abolition of foreign influence and the spread of Islamic upheaval over state-to-state associations or the furtherance of trade.
According to Moshaver (p. 286) there are a number of foreign policy guidelines that were formulated in Iran during Ayatollah Khomeini’s reign. These guidelines are normally perceived as having had a tier-mondisme inclination very characteristic of the post- colonial era in Iran. The very first foreign policy guideline under Khomeini was derived from the slogan “Neither West nor East but only the Islamic Republic” (Moshaver, p. 288). Islam was described as not the path of either the west or east but rather a straight path which would direct the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khomeini also perceived the Islamic nation of Iran as a forerunner nation that was not to be bound by restrictions of territory. According to his ideology, the Islamic religion “does not regard the various Islamic countries differently” (Houghton, 2001). Consequently Khomeini was convinced that the foreign policy of Iran should be founded upon the ideology of an Islamic state which was “the supporter of all the oppressed people of the world” (Moshaver, p. 288). This would be attained by ensuring that the ideologies of capitalism, communism and Zionism were annihilated.
The third principle which guided the nation of Iran under Khomeini was the anti-Americanism and anti-status quo perspective. The US in Iran, as in many parts of the Middle East was perceived as an unjust leader of an unfair system of hierarchy; consequently it would be challenged by the post revolutionary Islamic state of Iran.
As is to be expected, such a radical stance by Ayatollah Khomeini had a number of implications for Iran’s foreign policy. Moshaver (p. 288) indicates that the close association that had existed before between Iran and the US transformed into open antagonism. Within a short time the regional alliance model in the Middle East region had shifted from pro-Israel to pro-Palestinian and anti-status quo (Moshaver, p. 288). Iran was on the forefront in its support of Islamic militant groups and rather than establish a favorable foreign relation with the US, Iran joined movements such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Islamic Conference. The radicalization of Iran led by Ayatollah Khomeini would quickly attract diplomatic and military pressures and sanctions from the European region, particularly the United State of America. Within a short time, Iran was isolated both regionally and internationally. According to Moshaver (p. 288) the anti-Israel, anti- status quo and anti-US stance by Iran in Khomeini’s revolutionary era was depicted in the constitution of Iran (Mearsheimer et al, 2007). Since then the foreign policy of the Iranian nation as well as its choices has never quite been the same
Khomeini passed away in the year 1989 and was succeeded by Ayatollah Khamenei and Hashemi Rafsanjani became the new Iranian President. In similar manner to Khomeini, the foreign policy adopted by Khamenei has been one characterized by great suspicion and mistrust for foreign powers. After being inaugurated on the 21st of January the year 2009, the American President Barrack Obama sent to letters to Ayattolah Ali Khamenei aimed indicating the commitment of the American nation to get over the past mistrust between the two nations as well as building a new confidence and cooperation with Iran. The responses by Khamenei were very non-commital and cynical. Before the 2009 disputed presidential elections in Iran it had seemed almost inevitable that Ayatolla Ali Khamenei would retain his position as Supreme Leader in Iran for many years to come. In the present day however, Khamenei’s fate is not as certain. Sadjadpour (p. 4) claims that in his many years in leadership Khamenei is still to command as respect and royalty as great as that commanded by his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini.
Abulhassa Bani Sadr’s era
The strategy by Bani Sadr upon becoming the President of Iran in the year 1980 was to establish and formulate central authority in the nation of Iran. Khomeini had supported and allowed the swearing into office of President bani Sadr on January the year 1980 in spite of opposition from the IRP. In order to strengthen the position of Bani Sadr, Khomeinin went ahead to appoint him as the head of the Revolutionary Council in addition to delegating his powers as commander in chief of the armed forces to him. Dehshiri and Majidi (p. 102) claim that Iran’s foreign policy during this time can be described as realist idealism since it was mostly concerned with ensuring state security through the utilization of pragmatic means. After the revolution, Iran’s foreign policy pursued a financial strategy characterized by self-sufficiency. Iran was committed to ensuring that its foreign policy was in accordance to the dictates of the Islamic ideology and precepts.
The good relationship between President Bani Sadr and Ayatollah Khomeini was not to last long. Bani Sadr, in 1980, survived two helicopter crashes somewhere near the Iran-Iraq border. He had been elected as the president in the beginning of the year with Khomeini holding the Supreme Leader position. On the 10th of June the year 1981 Bani Sadr fell out with Khomeini and Khomeini reclaimed the powers he had given Bani Sadr as the commander in chief of the armed forces in Iran. Just two weeks later, President Bani Sadr was impeached by Majlis- the Iranian Parliament. Immediately after the impeachment of President Bani Sadr was agreed upon by the Iranian Parliament, the Revolutionary Guard did not waste any time in taking control of the presidential buildings in Iran and confining all the close allies of President Bani Sadr, particularly the writers in local newspaper publishing houses.
Bani Sadr’s era was characterized by a lot of wrangles between the president and his ministers as well as other political leaders in Iran; this made it very difficult for Bani Sadr to establish effective foreign policy for Iran since he always had to worry about the myriad issues confronting the internal politics in Iran. The attempts by Bani Sadr to institute the authority of the presidency in the internal political scene of Iran as well as in the foreign international arena were thwarted by leaders from the IRP as well as the Iranian parliament (the Majlis) which was committed to manipulating any efforts by Bani Sadr to respond to the international issues affecting Iran. A feasible instance is the hostage issue with the United States of America as well as the military confrontation that began with the nation of Iraq in the year 1980.
The analysis of the Iranian foreign policy over the era of Bani Sadr, as in the years that followed his impeachment, indicate that since the 1979 revolution in Iran the nation has inclined deterrence as its main strategy in the formulation of a foreign policy. This strategy, as indicated by the current Iranian leader, President Ahmadinejad, has mostly been influenced by the nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as the nations Iran perceives as a threat on the international arena. This strategy is clearly depicted in the phenomenon of defensive realism.
Present Era: Ahmadinejad
Haji-Yousefi (p. 1) claims that in recent days a great number of Islamic scholars are convinced that the foreign policy in Iran has transformed to a more radical and confrontational perspective since the current Iranian leader- President Ahmadinejad- came into power in the year 2005. Sadjadpour (p.1) claims that one of the most signifcant players in the Iranian disputed elections of the year 2009 was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has for more than twenty years endevored to establish an image of a fair judge and leader in Iran. The major source of controversy in this disputed election is that in spite of the Iranian public protesting against the re-election of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Khamenei made his support of Ahmadinejad very public and even issued veiled threats to the protesters (Sadjadpour, p. 1). Regardless of this tarnishing suffered by his reputation, the influence and authority of Khamenei in Iran remains unshaken due to the huge and powerful network that he has in most powerful institutions in the Islamic Republic of Ira. As a matter of fact, agencies such as the Presidency, Revolutionary Guards, Guardian Council, Parliament and Judiciary are led by persons that are either overly loyal to Kahmenei or directly appointed by him (Sadjadpour, p. 1).
Haji-Yousefi (p. 9) indicates that that foreign policy of Iran since the year 2005 has changed drastically. The main intention of Iran’s negotiation and discussions with the European Union member states has been to persuade the IAEA to allow it to maintain its nuclear enrichment activities. Iran even went ahead to commit itself to the voluntary implementation of US instigated Attached Protocol but later abandoned it after claiming that the main intentions of the European Union was to totally end Iran’s nuclear activities (Chatham, 2006).
Consequently, as indicated by Ritter (p. 176), President Ahmadinejad declared that the European Union had infringed on their commitments as indicated in the Paris Agreement. The nation of Iran then wrote a formal letter to the Secretary General of the IAEA and declared that it would revive its nuclear activities at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility. This resulted in the 7th resolution on Iran by the IAEA. Haji-Yousefi (p. 12) reveals that according to the Ahmadinejad administration the concept of the Shiite Crescent is perceived as an attempt by to manipulate Iran by emphasizing the ethnic and religious differences in the area. The American government is perceived suspiciously and accused of utilizing the concept of Shiite Crescent to create an alliance opposed to Iran.
Haji-Yousefi (p. 13) claims that the current assertive and confrontational nature of Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy was also indicated when President Ahmadinejad made public Iran’s intentions to wipe off the Israeli nation from the map of the region. The main intention of Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy has been to balance the power of the United States of America by continuously supporting the adversaries of America in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan as well as forging a strategic partnership with Syria and supporting the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran has also adopted a very assertive policy towards the Israeli nation (Haji-Yousefi, p. 13).
This paper has deliberated upon the issue of foreign policy as well as its patterns in the nation of Iran. As already implied in this paper, the Iranian nation is a sovereign one which enjoys the right to make use of its resources in the creation of its own unique course of development. Since the nation of Iran was engaged in warfare with Iraq and devastated by the chemical and weapons of mass destruction posed by Iraq, the different leaders in Iran have been very concerned about a repeat of such an episode in Iran’s future. This desire to defend itself is perceived as one of the reasons that Iran is engaged in a myriad of nuclear activities in opposition to the stipulations of the Non Proliferation Treaty. In the reign of President Ahmadinejad, however, Iran’s foreign policy as been perceived as inclined towards offensive realism due to the confrontational and assertive nature of the present foreign policy.
This paper has explored Iran’s foreign policy over the years under the leadership of its various presidents. Developing of the Islamic Republic came after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, there was a dramatic reversal of the pro-Western foreign policy of Iran’s last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Under his regime, Iran’s foreign policy repeatedly emphasized the abolition of foreign influence and the spread of Islamic upheaval over state-to-state associations or the furtherance of trade. Bani Sadr’s era was characterized by a lot of wrangles between the president and his ministers as well as other political leaders in Iran; this made it very difficult for Bani Sadr to establish effective foreign policy for Iran since he always had to worry about the myriad issues confronting the internal politics in Iran.
The country’s policies since then have alternated between the two counteracting tendencies of revolutionary eagerness, which would abolish Western and non-Muslim, while endorsing the Islamic revolution abroad, and also pragmatism, which would move forward economic development and the normalization of relations. Presently, in order for the nation of Iran to enhance the relationship it has with other nations on the international arena is it important that it straightens its associations with the IAEA and ensure that it abides by the stipulations of the Non Proliferation Treaty in is Uranium enrichment plants.
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