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The U.S. Factor in Iran’s Geostrategic and Foreign Policy Calculations

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Authors: Mehran Haghirian and Younes Zangiabadi

The Geopolitics of Iran

Leandro et al.

Springer, Studies in Iranian Politics book series


The United States has played a key role in the geostrategic and foreign policy calculations of the Islamic Republic since its establishment after the 1979 revolution in Iran. Even though diplomatic relations severed after the hostage crisis later that year, the Cold War-like rivalry between Tehran and Washington became an omnipresent factor in Iran’s policy-making calculus. The primary reason for the high level of importance given to the U.S. can be attributed to the Islamic Republic’s quest for recognition and legitimacy at the regional and global levels. This chapter delves into understanding the U.S. role in Iran’s geostrategic and foreign policy decision-making process through three different angles. First, the U.S.’ structural role in Iran’s foreign policy calculations is assessed under the broader framework of Iran’s geostrategy in the post-revolution period. The chapter then presents an analysis of the areas in which the geostrategic interests of both countries aligned in regional developments. This section examines the Iran–US cooperation in helping form democratic governments in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2005), as well as the fight against terrorism in the Levant region (since 2011). Lastly, this chapter examines the process that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which, for the first time, allowed for direct diplomatic engagements between Iran and the United States since the 1979 revolution. Moreover, the Nuclear Deal is used to examine the changing role of the U.S. in Iran’s geostrategic calculations during the 2013–2021 period. The concluding section of the chapter looks at the trends in, and the trajectory of, Iran–U.S. relations in 2021 and onward.

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