Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era

By Gavrilis, James | Military Review, May-June 2003 | Go to article overview

Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era


Gavrilis, James, Military Review


Daniel L. Byman, Shahram Chubin, Anoushiravan Ehteshami, and Jerold Green, Rand, Santa Monica, CA, 2001, 133 pages, $15.00

Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era is another excellent work from the Rand Corporation. Daniel L. Byman and his team have produced a clear, concise study that explains in detail the changing nature of Iran's security policy. They begin with the sources of Iran's security policy, including ideological as well as internal and external factors. The team also examines Iran's military institutions; the regular armed forces (the Artesh) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); their agendas; and their positions in the decisionmaking system. The authors detail these military institutions' relationships and interactions with Iran's informal, convoluted decisionmaking system. Finally, the authors examine the actual policies produced to develop an understanding of the character of Iran's security policy today and how Iran's policies have changed over the last 20 years.

After conducting this exploration of Iran's behavior, the Rand team shows that Iranian security policymakers have shifted from the adventurism of their early years to more cautious and prudent policies. The fervor of Islamic fundamentalism and Persian nationalism were the two primary drivers of Iran's security policy.

But their security policy has changed. The primary drivers today are geopolitics, ethnicity, and economies. As Byman and his team show, Iran's behavior now is more aimed at preserving the state and the political regime than at exporting and invigorating a worldwide Islamic revolution.

The authors cover in detail Iran's foreign policy with Iraq; Russia; China; Turkey; Afghanistan; pakistan; the Gulf Status; Central Asia and the Caucasus; Syria and Lebanon; Israel; Europe; and the United States. They also examine Iran's persuit of weapons of mass destruction and missiles and the country's policies toward Islamic radicals and explain the transitions that Iranian military institutions have undergone since the revolution. …

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