The Making of
a New Persian Gulf Policy
In June 1991, in commemorating the second anniversary of Khomeini's death, his successor used the occasion, as he had the previous year, to reaffirm his regime's steadfast loyalty to "the era of Imam" and to chastise those who had perniciously proclaimed that the era was over. At that time, most of Kuwait's oil wells set on fire by Iraq were still burning, tens of thousands of the multinational forces led by the United States were still present in the region, the flow of Iraqi Kurdish and non-Kurdish refugees into Iran continued unabated, the breakup of the Soviet Union was a fait accompli, and the management of Iranian politics had become subject to the unprecedented strains of coping with the dramatic and epochal transformations of regional and global politics. Ample evidence of a great stirring in the internal and external task environment of foreign policymaking showed the error of rejecting the notion that a new era had begun. The error of the Leader was to remain mistakenly caught up in the effort to teleologically spell out the eternal endurance of the Khomeinist era precisely at a moment when the prescriptions of that era seemed less and less applicable to the new historical era. Simultaneously, Khamenei's pledge of loyalty to his predecessor was a strong clue to reject the argument that movement from Khomeinism to post-Khomeinism could be completed.
But the actuality of Iranian foreign policy gestured towards a partial reorientation away from the repertoire of beliefs and action guidance we call Khomeinism. This reorientation occurred most visibly in the Persian Gulf sector of Iran's external relations. This was unsurprising because in two short years, from 1989 to 1991, the Persian Gulf had witnessed a massive change, indeed a revolution, in its political map. The