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The Foreign Policy Objectives and Determinants of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Mehran Haghirian

Islamska Republika Iranu na arenie międzynarodowej - motywacje i kierunki polityki (Islamic Republic of Iran on the International Stage - Motivations and Trajectory)

Czulda, Robert (Ed.)

University of Lodz, 2019


The Islamic Republic of Iran has gone through major transformations in the forty years ever since the revolution of 1979. Through each critical event and under each leader and president, Iran’s foreign policy has developed and continuously adapted to meet the country’s immediate interests. Much debate exists on the Islamic Republic’s rationality, legitimacy, and trajectory, and to understand these variations, this article aims to dissect three dominant approaches of ideology, critical events, and leader-centric, to better understand the objectives and determinants of Iran’s foreign policy. The ideology-centric approach, argued by many scholars and Iran analysts, views the persistence of revolutionary ideology in Iran as well as debates its role in the international community between a revisionist or a rational actor. Other scholars argue, however, that viewing Iran’s foreign policy as reactionary to critical events better explains its approach towards the international community. The Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, and the Arab uprisings are three major events that explain Iran’s foreign policy posturing. The third approach views Iran’s foreign policy formulation as increasingly driven by the presidency, and hence changing through transition of power. These various approaches elucidate the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy development in the last four decades.

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