Iran's External Relations
and Regional Ambitions
The analysis of Iran's foreign policy and regional ambitions is a more familiar aspect of security analysis than its internal politics, internal security efforts, demographics, and oil. Once again, however, such an analysis has several major uncertainties, and reflects deep differences of opinion between the US and its allies. Further, such an analysis presents the problem that there is an inevitable gap between Iranian statements and actions, and Iran's foreign policy cannot be separated from its actions in supporting terrorism and extremism.
Iran's foreign policy continues to defy easy categorization. In the first decade of its existence, the Islamic Republic of Iran was a revolutionary state opposed to the regional status quo and the domination of the world by the two superpowers. Iran followed the almost predictable historic trajectory of revolutionary states that have destabilized the international system by seeking to bring about fundamental changes in the domestic political situation of other states and in the conduct of inter-state relations. Ayatollah Khomeini set the foreign policy agenda of the Islamic Republic during the first decade of its existence, both from the stand point of ideology and the issuing of important directives which dramatically affected Iran's relations with the outside world. Iran's defeat in the war with Iraq heralded the end of this militant attempt to 'export the revolution' by force.
The acceptance by Iran in July, 1988 of United Nations Security Council Resolution 598--calling for a cease-fire--constituted the revolutionary leader's single greatest submission to the logic of realpolitik, coming as it did in the wake of severe Iranian battlefield defeats between April and July. Iran emerged from the war with the recognition on the part of some of its political elite that militant confrontation with the outside world had been counterproductive. It became readily apparent that successful implementation of economic reforms and reconstruction depended on the adoption of a policy of openness towards the outside world and responsible diplomacy.