After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy

By K. L. Afrasiabi | Go to book overview
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6
Future of Iran's Foreign Policy:
Agendas for Adjustment

Introduction: Iran as an International Power

What can be said about Iran's status as an international power in the post-Cold War era? The question seems inappropriate from the perspective of international relations theorists who are used to assigning to Iran no more than a regional status. Yet, inside Iran there persists the belief that Iran, by virtue of its old civilization or the dynamism of its religious ideology, has been destined to play a crucial role in reshaping global politics. In fact, the ending of the Cold War has helped Iran project power beyond its immediate region and acquire a semblance of influence in international affairs. As stated in the previous chapter, the Cold War's finality may have reduced considerably Iran's strategic value but on the other hand it has equipped Iran with a new mystique and the potential as a global actor. Nowadays, the Iranian threat -- the image of a religious leviathan rampant -- looms large in the security calculus of many experts and politicians in the West. Iran has been building up its network of international solidarity, and its ideological appeal has picked up momentum instead of waning. In the wake of the Kuwait crisis, when the ideal of pan-Arabism suffered a lethal blow, Iran has displayed a dogged determination to enhance its religious identity in terms of Umma sovereignty and authenticity.

For Iran there is little room to compromise this identity because of the fusing of foreign and domestic issues. Almost all of the country's identity pivots around the definition of its special place in Muslim international politics. The founding of the Islamic Republic was attached to the realm, in Husserl's term, of a "world constituting subjectivity" that bespoke of Iran's emergence as an international power of a different kind, i.e., as a "moral superpower." Caught up in discursive battles over its

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