Iran’s foreign policy is primarily driven by its desire to be free of foreign intervention.
- Persian history is marked by centuries of conflict with a changing cast of foreign invaders, from the Greeks to Mongols to the Arabs to the Russians and British.
- The clash of civilizations is a running theme, and one that has bred a sense of intense nationalism.
- Iran’s experience gives credence to the theory that history is driven by resources and conflicts over resources. Iran has energy, land, and transit corridors, and has thus commanded persistent attention from those who seek to gain access to these, or prevent their enemies from doing so.
- Even when Iran was not directly involved in major conflicts, such as during both World Wars, neutral Iran was devastated as others fought over its resources.
Foreign intervention has taken many forms.
- Foreign influence has often come in the form of economic imperialism: oil and trade concessions negotiated by Western powers for their own benefit during the reign of the Shahs.
- Foreign intervention has also been political, as in the case of the US-British backed coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in the 1950s.
- To this day, Iran feels under siege from outsiders who exert control over the Iranian economy through trade sanctions, presume to tell Iran how it can proceed on its domestic nuclear program, and speak openly of fomenting regime change in Tehran.
- In the Iranian narrative, the US is of particular importance, having replaced the British as the major Western player in the region after World War II. The US, or Great Satan as it is routinely called in Iran, has been seen as the ultimate foreign meddler and foe of the Islamic Republic since the Revolution of 1979 toppled the American-backed Shah.
- Iran contends also with a wide range of hostile Sunni Arab neighbors and the state of Israel in its efforts to establish itself as a formidable power in the region.
Justice, or “huq”
- The other fundamental principle underlying Iran’s foreign policy objectives is the concept of justice, known in Farsi as “huq.” Infused with Persian heritage and Islamic beliefs about the divinely ordained rightful order of the universe, the Iranian sense of justice on the international stage is complex. As described by numerous experts and scholars, it is part wounded pride, part messianic belief in Iran’s destiny, and part outrage. Iranians are thought to view their own history and the Islamic Republic’s current international relations through this lens.
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