Issue 8, March 2009
|Iran's Foreign Policy Objectives|
Iran’s primary foreign policy objectives fall into three broad categories:
These three realms of foreign policy – projecting power and influence, containing rivals, and deterring attack by enemies – are those pursued by all nations. However, Iran’s actions are often seen as intentionally subversive to Western or US interests, somewhat inevitably insofar as the ideology behind Iran’s foreign policy is anti-Western. It bears remembering that one country’s pursuit of its own objectives often necessarily runs counter to the interests of others.
Looking at Iran’s foreign policy through the lens of its enmity with the US over the past three decades can obscure the fact that Iran believes itself to be pursuing its own vital interests, regionally and internationally. Behind Iran’s actions there may be an element of wanting to undermine US hegemony and influence in the world, but Iran’s decisions also clearly support its own specific interests, some of which have little to do with the US.
Viewing Iran’s foreign policy interests realistically often proves difficult because Iran is still somewhat of a mystery to outsiders. The regime’s decision-making tends to be opaque, even to its own citizens. Western countries, particularly the US, have few diplomatic and communication channels inside the Islamic Republic. Moreover, Iran’s foreign policy leadership is fragmented, with the Supreme Leader, Parliament, the President, and clerics often saying different things. In the words of an unnamed diplomat quoted in the New York Times, “It would make our job easier if only they could agree.”
One clear foreign policy priority is to gain recognition and respect – from its neighbors, international bodies, and the West.