Iran's 21st Century Geopolitical Profile
- It is the largest and most populous country in the region with considerable energy wealth, despite its structural economic woes and sanctions enacted against it.
- It has traditionally spent a large proportion of its petrodollars on military supplies and, more recently, on nuclear technology.
- It has proven itself highly effective at proxy warfare, supporting a wide range of militias, terrorist groups, and ethnic/religious minorities in other countries.
- It sits in a critical geostrategic location between East and West and along an important bottleneck in the transit of the world’s oil supplies.
- It is the only officially Islamic state in the world at a time when Muslim countries are a source of great concern for the West. Its ideology of Islamic Revolution includes messianic or “export” intentions.
- It is not only Islamic, but also Shia, and thus is highly influential with Baghdad’s new Shia government and with Shia officials and militias operating throughout Iraq.
- It has significant credibility with the “Muslim Street.” More than the Arab Sunni monarchies in the region, Iran is seen by many as the protector of Palestinians, the bulwark against Israeli power, and a symbol of Islamic pride.
- Iran’s embrace of Shia notions of oppression and martyrdom appeal as well to the world’s non-Islamic downtrodden populations, as does its reputation for standing up to Western countries such as the United States.
- It has a long, proud history, espousing a narrative of empire, decline, and resurgence. It has proven its ability to withstand great economic and military hardship and sacrifice.
- It has a rancorous relationship with the United States, is located between two theaters of American military action in the region, and has been accused of subverting the American-led global war on terror.
- It is surrounded by few reliable allies, but instead has many neighboring rivals and enemies, including Saudi Arabia and Israel.
- It is surrounded by five of the world’s eight nuclear powers (and all of the non-Western nuclear powers).
Next: Iran on the World Stage - Foreign Policy: Iran's Foreign Policy Objectives