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Understanding Iran: An Iranian Perspective on Forty Years of the Islamic Republic

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Mehran Haghirian

In Focus: The Gulf - Complex and Divided

Eva, Ádam and Baranyi, Tamás Péter (Eds.)

Antall József Knowledge Centre, December 2019


Home to more than two millennia of history, Iran has gone through major transformations in its geography, religion, political system, societal composition, and external relations. The 1979 revolution was one of the most consequential events in Iran’s modern history that had wide-ranging and far-reaching impacts on the country’s domestic and foreign policies.1 For more than forty years, analysts and government officials from around the world have strived and struggled to understand the society, political ideologies, and foreign policy of modern Iran. This article aims to shed light on the realities of today’s Iran from an Iranian perspective.

Viewing Iran through a reductionist prism ignores the fact that the country has not only survived the past forty years under intense international pressures, but the relatively new political system has matured and adapted at every single significant moment in its modern history. Societal diversity in Iran has increasingly strengthened the country as opposed to the fragmentations witnessed all around the region. The ideological approaches to domestic and foreign policies of the first decade after the revolution have been gradually replaced by pragmatism and the rational pursuit of national interests in the past thirty years. Importantly, the diverse societal composition and the prioritisation of pragmatism has allowed for a diversified foreign policy and decision-making processes under each government. This article explains these realities with the hopes of expanding the international debates on Iran to achieve a more sensible understanding of this ever-important country.

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