Iran’s foreign policy after Islamic Revolution: Maximum independence and strategic autonomy

By Dr. Ali Chegeni

Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution has changed the country’s domestic and foreign policies for the better in many aspects. In fact, the Islamic Revolution has established a new set of normative foreign policy discourses focused on the concept of Justice in International Relations and has transformed Iranian identity from a pro-western status quo to a pro-strategic autonomy based on mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, which has been crystallized in more convergence of Iran’s policy with the developing world including Asian countries such as India in the line of its “Look East Policy. This normative and principled approach has shaped the country’s behavior in a way which distinguishes it from the rest of the world.

Such a new foreign policy discourse and the approach of not aligning with any camps of power by Iran, was never appreciated by the United States and its regional allies, resulting in their continued wrong understanding, miscalculations and hostility towards Iranian nation which have aggravated the situation in the region and the rest of the world.

The first, and perhaps the greatest challenge is that the U.S., deeply unfamiliar with the dynamics of Iran’s politics, culture and society, cannot stand away from 1979. The Islamic revolution has ended decades of foreign interference in Iran’s internal affairs in particular through a military Coup d’etat orchestrated by the US and the British intelligence agencies against the legitimate government of Iran in 1953. As the result, during the past 42 years after the revolution, all U.S. Administrations and presidents from Carter to Reagan, and Bush to Obama and recently Trump, opted for different ways and means of pressure and subversive measures against Iran and its great people.

However disappointed at the result of frequent failures in destabilizing Iran specifically through direct military intervention and instigating terrorist activities, the US Governments have shifted to imposing illegal and inhumane sanctions as a convenient strategy to exert maximum pressure on all Iranians to achieve their illegitimate political gains.

Here, we can list many U.S interferences which have fueled deep Iranian distrust of the U.S. The best example of serious meddling by the United States is the Iran-Iraq war. In 1980, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, initiating a devastating eight-year war. Amazingly, the United States and most of its allies in the West supported and mobilized Iraqi army with the know-how, materials and other logistics to use chemical weapons and ballistic missiles against the civilians and Iranian forces.

Despite huge suffering and more than 100,000 Iranian civilian casualties from this internationally proscribed application of chemical weapons, Iran never retaliated and remained committed to its international treaty obligations including under the CWC.
However, the hostilities by US. and its support to the Saddam regime continued and in 1988 the Captain of USS Vincennes, the guided missile cruiser in Persian Gulf ordered missiles fired from his warship, which killed all 290 innocent people aboard the commercial Iranian Airliner.

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, despite all of the support and cooperation in Afghanistan to defeat the terrorist groups, Iran was finally declared by George W. Bush’s as part of the “Axis of Evil” speech in 2002. After that the United States has been continuously attempting to push for regime change policy through financing terror and funding various Iranian armed opposition groups in particular PMOI/NRC who are responsible for the assassination of 17000 Iranian citizens.
In the meantime, in the Middle East’s theater, the U.S. interests have focused on generating and aggravating regional disputes, exacerbating conflicts and insecurity to fuel an arms race in order to create a bigger market for its weapons.
Moreover, full and one sided US support for Zionist regime has caused many crises and instability in the region in such a way that some prominent American scholars argue that U.S. support for this regime is a strategic liability to America.

While Iran’s regional policy after revolution persistently has called for regional dialogue and engagement with all neighbors based on sovereignty, integrity and stability of states, the U.S. interventions in the region have disturbed the natural harmony, domestic dynamics and ecosystem of communities. So the rise of extremist and radical groups such as Al-Qaida, Daesh, Bokoharam and Alshabab is nothing than contemporary demonstration of U.S. adventurism. The crises in our region, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Yemen, are all rooted in occupation, illegal military interventions, hegemonic and social engineering policies of the U.S. Trump’s last year order to assassinate Major General Qasem Soleimani, the prestigious and famous anti-terror Iranian hero who had played a major role in defeating Daesh’s kingdom of terror, is another example of bullying by the US what its policies really means for the peace and stability in the region.
Having said that and bearing in mind the sad experiences of and the heavy price paid by Iran for its independence, non alignment and protection of its people, Iran’s security calculations has changed significantly, pushing it toward development of sufficient legitimate conventional self-defense capabilities to deter any future aggression.

In the highly sensitive Persian Gulf region, the U.S. as a third factor has always played a destructive role in the regional security architecture. The successive U.S administrations have also tried to put the region on a collision course with Iran by targeting its geopolitics interest, while in contrast, Iran has always expressed its strong belief and accordingly put forward some regional arrangements for the security, peace and interests of all countries around this water basin to be secured through dialogue, confidence building and multilateral cooperation.

The bottom line is that as the ill-advised policy of “maximum pressure” against is doomed to failure, the new U.S. administration should come to this reality which Iran is a country that has been able to survive despite pressure, despite war, despite sanctions. Iran has been able to make progress, to make scientific achievements. Iran, based on its previous experiences and an introverted economy empowered by the culture of resistance, has successfully managed to withstand the US pressure. It is hoped that the new U.S. administration corrects the past wrong policies towards Iranian people and let the region decide on its own for an inclusive security arrangement.

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The author is ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran to India.

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