Iran in the International Arena


There remains little doubt that on the eve of the Islamic revolution of 1979 Iran’s stature on both regional and international arenas had reached unprecedented heights as a result of its sustained and rapid economic growth and vastly improved military capabilities, mostly due to Shah’s strategic acumen and unwavering pursuit of his objectives. Furthermore, the sudden and whopping increase in Iran’s oil revenues in 1973-74 had expanded Iran’s financial clout in the region.

With the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Iran’s foreign policy objectives under went a sea change. The seizure of the United States’ embassy in Tehran by a group of radical students heralded the dawn of a new era in Iran’s regional and international behavior. Although in the last three decades the Iranian government has made repeated promises to adopting a more conciliatory stance in the world,  the fact remains that the direction and primary objectives of its policy have yet to undergo meaningful and substantial change.

Today, there is a widespread claim by a large number of specialists in Iranian Studies that Iran’s strength and influence in the Middle East has substantially increased in recent years. The assumptions underlying such a claim must, however, be revisited. Most of Iran’s considerable capabilities in the region are potential rather than actual. Most of theses capabilities are, however, potential rather than actual. Its defiant pursuit of nuclear energy, coupled with its support of radical Islamist groups in the region have increased its international isolation and further eroded its standing. In a word, today with a substantially weakened Iraq and a violence ridden Afghanistan in the neighborhood, Iran may be called a giant, but one with the feet of clay.

محمدرضا جلیلی*
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