After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy, by K.L. Afrasiabi. Boulder, San Francisco, and Oxford: Westview Press, 1994. xii + 212 pages. Append. to p. 217. Bibl. to p. 231. Index to p. 244. $54.95.

In this aptly titled book, K.L. Afrasiabi, a political scientist at Boston University, provides a provocative account of Iran's foreign policy aspirations and actions in the post-Khomeini era. Through a close examination of the cognitive map of Iran's political elite, Afrasiabi helps the reader decipher the cacophonous rhetoric and erratic moves of a so-called "pariah nation." Far from embracing the simplistic and derogatory explanations so readily offered by many scholars, journalists, and policy experts alike, this book asserts that Iran's foreign policy can better be comprehended in terms of the exigencies of revolutionary consolidation in a state aspiring to reestablish itself as a regional power. The author writes:

The argument I hope to establish is that remaking foreign policy in today's Iran is a complex and complicated process fraught with difficulties and potential setbacks and regressions as a result of both the nature of thematic changes in foreign (and domestic) policies and the uncertainties of normative reconstruction attached to these changes, as well as the paradoxical influences of the new regional and global orders that simultaneously press for and against affirming the Khomeinist Weltanschauung (p. 3).

By providing a detailed analysis of the series of initiatives undertaken by Iran vis-a-vis various states in the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, and the Western world, Afrasiabi demonstrates the painstaking process by which the country's foreign policy establishment has tried to redefine its mandate in the aftermath of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's death. While the picture that emerges is not necessarily that of a consistently judicious and dexterous group of statesmen, it nonetheless casts in a new light the subtleties and nuances of the course of Iran's post-Khomeinist foreign policy. Afrasiabi identifies the improvement of Iran's relations with the Persian Gulf states, and the newly independent states of Central Asia and the Caucasus, as the most critical challenge facing the Iranian foreign policy establishment in the years to come. He also summons Western and Iranian policy makers to reexamine their perceptions of one another by counseling the former to be more considerate of the "uniqueness" of the Iranian case, while encouraging the Iranians to rethink some of their ill-fated policies of the past. …