Foreign relations of Iran

Foreign relations of Iran

Foreign relations of Iran refers to inter-governmental connections between Iran and other countries. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Islamic revolutionary regime of Ayatollah Khomeini dramatically reversed the pro-Western foreign policy of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Since then Iran has oscillated between the two opposing tendencies of revolutionary ardour - eliminating western non-Muslim tendencies and promoting the Islamic revolution abroad - and moves towards pragmatism - promoting normalization and economic development. Iran's initial post-revolutionary idealistic and hard-line foreign policy and ambitious goals during the Iran–Iraq War were replaced by more pragmatic policies after the Imam's death in 1989.Fact|date=July 2008 Relations improved with its neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia.Fact|date=July 2008 Following the Iranian presidential election, 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has returned Iran to more Islamic revolutionary policies.Fact|date=July 2008

Bilateral relations are sometimes confused and contradictory, due to Iran's oscillation between pragmatic and ideological concerns.


Iranians have traditionally been highly sensitive and suspicious of foreign interference in their country, pointing to such events as Russian conquest of northern parts of the country, the Tobacco concession to the British-Soviet occupation during World War I and II, and the CIA plot to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq. This suspicious manifests itself in beliefs many foreigners find highly implausible, such as "the fairly common" one that the Iranian Revolution was actually the work of a conspiracy between Iran's Shia clergy and the British government. [Movali, Ifshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, 2005]

Revolution period under Khomeini

During the reign of the Khomeini Iran's foreign policy often emphasized the elimination of foreign influence and spread of Islamic Revolution rather than state-state relations or the furthering of trade. In the words of Khomeini

"We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry `There is no Allah but Allah` resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle." [ [11 February 1979 p.108 from "Excerpts from Speeches and Messages of Imam Khomeini on the Unity of the Muslims", undated, distributed by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, Tehran, (quoted in Wright, Robin, Sacred Rage, (2001), p.27)]

The Islamic Republic's effort to spread the revolution is thought to have gotten underway in earnest in March 1982 when 380 men from more than 25 Arab and Islamic nations, met at the former Tehran Hilton Hotel for a "seminar" on the "ideal Islamic government," and less academically the launching of a large-scale offensive to cleanse the Islamic world of the Satanic Western and Communist influences that were seen to be hindering the Islamic world's progress.

The gathering of primarily Shia, but including some Sunnis militants, "with various religious and revolutionary credentials," was hosted by the Association of Militant Clerics and the Pasdaran Islamic Revolutionary Guards. [Wright, Robin, "Sacred Rage", (2001), p.28 ]

The nerve center of the revolutionary crusade, operational since shortly after the 1979 revolution, was located in downtown Tehran and known to outsiders as the "Taleghani Center." At this headquarters groundwork for the gathering was prepared - the use of Arab cadre, recruited or imported from surrounding countries, to spread the revolution - and headquarters for groups such as Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, Iraqi Shia movement, and militant clerics of the Moros of the Philippines, Kuwaiti, Saudi, North African and Lebanon.

These groups came under the umbrella of the `Council for the Islamic Revolution` which was supervised by Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, the designated heir of Ayatollah Khomeini. Most of the council's members were clerics, but they also reportedly included advisors from the Syrian and Libyan intelligence agencies. The council reportedly received more than $1 billion annually - contributions from the faithful in other countries as well as Iranian government allocations. [Wright, Robin, "Sacred Rage", (2001), p.33]

A two-pronged strategy - armed struggle against what were perceived as Western imperialism and its agents; and a purifying process internally to free Islamic territory and Muslim minds of non-Islamic cultural, intellectual and spiritual influences by providing justice, services, resources to the "mustazafin" (weak) masses of the Muslim world.

These attempts to spread its Islamic revolution strained the country's relations with many of its Arab neighbors and the extra-judicial execution of Iranian dissidents in Europe unnerved European nations, particularly France and Germany. For example, the Islamic Republic expressed its opinion of Egypt's secular government by naming a street in Tehran after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's killer, Khalid al-Istanbuli. [Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival", Norton, (2006), p.143]

At this time, Iran found itself very isolated, but this was secondary to the spread of revolutionary ideals spread across the Persian Gulf and the confrontation with the U.S., or "Great Satan," in the hostage crisis.

Training volunteers

Arab and other Muslim volunteers who came to Iran were trained in camps run by the Revolutionary Guards. There were three primary bases in Tehran, and in Ahwaz, Isfahan, Qom, Shiraz, Mashad, and in a facility converted in 1984 near the southern naval base at Bushire. [Wright, Robin, "Sacred Rage", (2001), p.34-5]

In 1981, Iran supported an attempt to overthrow the Bahraini government. In 1983, Iran expressed political support for Shi'ites who bombed Western embassies in Kuwait, and in 1987, Iranian pilgrims rioted at poor living conditions and treatment and were consequently massacred during the Hajj (pilgrimage) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Nations with strong fundamentalist movements, such as Egypt and Algeria, also began to mistrust Iran. With the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Iran was thought to be supporting the creation of the Hizballah organization. Furthermore, Iran went on to oppose the Arab-Israeli peace process, because it saw Israel as an illegal country.


Around June 1982, Iran dispatched more than 1000 Revolutionary Guards to the predominately Shi'ite Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. There they established themselves, taking over the Lebanese Army's regional headquarters in the Sheikh Abdullah barracks, as well as a modern clinic renamed `Hospital Khomeini` and the Hotel Khayyam. Pasdaran were active in many places, including schools, where they propagated Islamic doctrine. [Wright, Robin, "Sacred Rage", (2001), p.80-1] Iranian clerics, most notably Fazlollah Mahallati, supervised. [Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival", Norton, (2006), p.115]

From this foothold, the Islamic Republic helped organize one of its biggest successes, the Hezbollah militia, party and social services organization loyal to the Khomeini principle of Guardianship (i.e. rule) of the Islamic Jurists (Velayat-e-Faqih), and loyal to Khomeini as their leader. [ An open letter, The Hizballah program] ] Over the next seven years Iran is estimated to have spent an estimated $5 to $10 million US dollars per month on Hezbollah, although that organization is said to have become more self-sufficient now. [Jaber, Hala, "Hezbollah : Born with a vengeance," Columbia University Press, c1997, p.150]

As Hussein Musawi, a militia commander of Amal mliitia who quit Amal and joined Hezbollah put it:

We are her [Iran's] children. We are seeking to formulate an Islamic society which in the final analysis will produce an Islamic state. ... The Islamic revolution will march to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem, and the Islamic state will then spread its authority over the region of which Lebanon is only a part.` ["Monday Morning magazine", Oct. 31, 1983

Palestinian Territories

The Iranian government "regularly sends aid to various Palestinian causes, everything from transporting injured children to hospitals to supplying" the Islamist "resistance" groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas with arms. Streets and squares named after Palestine "crisscross the nation". Despite this and "vigorous propaganda efforts to promote the Palestinian cause", grassroots support has been lacking. "Iranian people, preoccupied with their own problems", lack "emotional and cultural ties to Palestinians." [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, (2005), p.59]

Iran–Iraq War

Relations with Iraq had never been good historically; however, they took a turn for the worse in 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran. The stated reason for Iraq's invasion was centered around sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab waterway ("Arvand Rud" in Persian) between the two countries. However, other non-stated reasons are probably more convincing. Iran and Iraq had a history of interference in each other's affairs by supporting separatist movements. Although these interferences had stopped since the Algiers Agreement (1975), Iran resumed support for Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq after the Revolution.

Iran demanded the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Iranian territory and the return to the status quo ante for the Shatt al-Arab, as established under the 1975 Algiers Agreement signed by Iraq and Iran. This period saw Iran become even more isolated—with virtually no allies. Exhausted by the war, Iran signed UN Security Council Resolution 598 in July 1988 after the United States and Germany began supplying Iraq with chemical weapons. The cease-fire, resulting from the UN Resolution, was implemented on August 20, 1988. Neither nation had made any real gains in the war. It left one million dead and had a dramatic effect on the country's foreign policy. From this point on, the until-then-radical Islamist government recognised that it had no choice but to moderate and rationalise its objectives. This was the beginning of what Anoushiravan Ehteshami calls the "reorientation" phase of Iranian foreign policy


Like other revolutionary states, practical considerations have sometimes led the Islamic Republic to inconsistency and subordination of ideological concerns, in, for example pan-Islamic solidarity. One observer, Graham Fuller, has called the Islamic Republic "stunningly silent"

about [Muslim] Chechens in [non-Muslim] Russia, or Uyghurs in China, [see [ Uyghurs Human Rights Project] ] simply because the Iranian state has important strategic ties with both China and Russia that need to be preserved in the state interest. Iran has astonishingly even supported Christian Armenia against Shi'ite Azerbaijan and has been careful not to lend too much support to Islamist Tajiks in Tajikistan, where the language is basically a dialect of Persian.
In this regard the Islamic Republic resembles another revolutionary state, the old Soviet Union. The USSR was ideologically committed not to Islam but to world proletarian revolution, led by Communist parties under its leadership, but "frequently abandoned support to foreign communist parties when it served Soviet national interests to cooperate with the governments that were oppressing them." [Fuller, Graham E., "The Future of Political Islam", Palgrave MacMillan, (2003), p.41]

Post-War period (1988-present)

Since the end of the Iran–Iraq War, Iran's new foreign policy (see Introduction) has had a dramatic effect on its global standing. Relations with the European Union have dramatically improved to the point where Iran is a major oil exporter and trading partner for countries such as Italy, France, and Germany. China and India have also emerged as friends of Iran. Together, these three countries face similar challenges in the global economy as they industrialize and consequently find themselves aligned on a number of issues.

Iran maintains regular diplomatic and commercial relations with Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Both Iran and Russia believe they have important national interests at stake in developments in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus, particularly on energy resources from the Caspian Sea. Russian and other sales of military equipment and technology concern Iran's neighbors and the United States.

ignificant historical treaties

*Treaty of Zuhab
*Treaty of Turkmenchay
*Treaty of Gulistan
*Treaty of Akhal
*Paris Treaty of 1857 (by which Iran loses rights over Herat and parts of Afghanistan.)
*Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907

Current policies of The Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran accords priority to its relations with the other states in the region and with the rest of the Islamic world. This includes a strong commitment to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement. Relations with the states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC), especially with Saudi Arabia, have improved in recent years. However, an unresolved territorial dispute with the United Arab Emirates concerning three islands in the Persian Gulf (see above) continues to mar its relations with these states.

Tehran supports the Interim Governing Council in Iraq, but it strongly advocates a prompt and full transfer of state authority to the Iraqi people. Iran hopes for stabilization in Afghanistan and supports the reconstruction effort so that the Afghan refugees in Iran (which number approximately 2.5 million. [Afghan Refugees in Iran, " [] ", International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, 16-Jun-2004. Retrieved 29-Apr-2007.] ) can return to their homeland and the flow of drugs from Afghanistan can be stemmed. Iran is also pursuing a policy of stabilization and cooperation with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, whereby it is seeking to capitalise on its central location to establish itself as the political and economic hub of the region.

Current disputes

*Iran and Iraq restored diplomatic relations in 1990, but they are still trying to work out written agreements settling outstanding disputes from their eight-year war concerning border demarcation, prisoners-of-war, and freedom of navigation and sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
*Iran governs and owns two islands in the Persian Gulf claimed by the UAE: "Lesser Tunb" (which the UAE calls "Tunb as Sughra" in Arabic, and Iran calls "Jazireh-ye Tonb-e Kuchek" in Persian) and "Greater Tunb" (which the UAE calls "Tunb al Kubra" in Arabic, and Iran calls "Jazireh-ye Tonb-e Bozorg" in Persian).
*Iran jointly administers with the UAE an island in the Persian Gulf claimed by the UAE (Arabic, "Abu Musa"; Persian, "Jazireh-ye Abu Musa"), over which Iran has taken steps to exert unilateral control since 1992, including access restrictions.
*The Caspian Sea borders are not yet determined with Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan, although this problem is set to be resolved peacefully in the coming years through slow negotiations. After the break up of USSR, the newly-independent republics bordering the Caspian sea claimed their share of the territorial waters & the sea bed, thus unilaterally abbrogating the existing 50%-50% USSR-Iran agreements which like all other USSR pacts, the former soviet republics agreed to respect upon their independence. It has been suggested by these countries that the Caspian sea should be divided according to corresponding shoreline of each of the countries bordering the Caspian in which case Iran's share would be reduced to about 13 percent. The Iranian side has expressed its eagerness to know whether this means that all Irano-Russian/Soviet agreement are null & Iran is therfore certified to claim territorial sovereignty over lands lost to Russia by treaties that the two sides still consider "vivant". Issues between Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan were settled in 2003, but Iran does not recognize these agreements. Iran opposes this resolution on the grounds that the law of international open waters can not be applied to the Caspian sea which is in fact a lake (a landlocked body of water). In recent years, Iran has shown little concern in claiming its territorial waters in the Caspian sea which is largely due to the fact that it heavily relies on Russia over its nuclear battle with the west.
*2007 UK-Iran maritime capture controversy
*Iran on June 5 2007 reaffirmed the country's non-interference in Lebanese national affairs and called for unity among the Lebanese people. []
*In 2003, the American Iranian Council helped Iran initiate an offer to the United States, known as the "Grand Bargain". Before invading Iraq, the Bush administration rebuffed a series of overtures from Iran's reformist government -- among them offers to help the United States stabilize Iraq after the invasion -- which culminated in a secret proposal for a grand bargain resolving all outstanding issues between the United States and Iran, including Iran's alleged support for terrorism and the development of its nuclear program. The United States which had branded Iran part of the "axis of evil," decided on a confrontational approach (see PBS Frontline Documentary showing on October 23, 2007).


Relations with the United States of America and the Member States of the European Union

"Main article:" U.S.-Iran relations

Relations between Iran and the United States have been disrupted since the revolution in Iran. Iran does not maintain official diplomatic relations with either the United States or Israel, and it views the Middle East peace process with skepticism. Iran and the United States solely have diplomatic "Interest Sections" in each other's countries. Relations between Iran on the one hand and the European Union and its member states on the other hand are slowly but surely increasing in importance, a fact underscored by President Seyed Mohammad Khatami's visits to Italy, France and Germany in July 2000 and to Austria and Greece in March 2002, as well as by reciprocal visits of European heads of state and government to Tehran and a lively exchange at ministerial levels. In 2002, the European Union launched negotiations on a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) with Iran. Parallel to these negotiations, the EU voiced its expectation that the political dialogue with Iran must lead to concrete results in the areas of human rights, efforts to counter terrorism, Iran’s stance on the Middle East peace process and issues associated with the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. During a joint visit to Tehran in October 2003, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom successfully prompted the Iranian government to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and commit itself to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and voluntarily suspend its uranium enrichment and processing activities.


Iran and Pakistan are neighbours, connected by the sparsely populated Balochistan region split between them. There is a long history of contact and mutual influence, with segments of Pakistani culture directly descended from Iranian cultures.

The area of the Indian subcontinent which is now Pakistan had frequent interactions with the Persian Empire, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Iran was one of the first countries to recognize the newly created nation-state of Pakistan.

Since 1979 After the Iranian Revolution, Iran withdrew from CENTO and dissociated itself from US-friendly countries such as Pakistan. Despite close ties under the Shah, Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the new Iranian government, and attempted to rebuild ties. In the 1980s both Pakistan and Iran opposed the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan and coordinated their covert support for the Afghan mujahideen.

During the 1990s, their relations were dominated by the Shiite factor, nuclearization, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Abdul Qadeer Khan was allegedly involved in selling sensitive technology to Iran, particularly P1 centrifuge systems. Iran divulged this information to the IAEA during the course of the international investigation. Pakistan and Iran supported opposite sides in the 1991-2001 Afghan Civil War. Pakistan supported the Pashtun dominated Taliban while Iran supported the Persian and Tajik dominated Northern Alliance. The Taliban eventually took over Kabul, and in September 1998 Taliban guards killed 10 diplomats in the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. In retaliation Iran massed thousands of troops at the Afghan border threatening attack. [ [] ] [ [ Iranian Cleric Attacks Afghans As Enemies as Troops Gather, September 5, 1998] ]

Relations between Iran and Pakistan improved since after the removal of Taliban in 2002, but regional rivalry continues. Sunni-majority Pakistan sides with fellow Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia in its competition with Shiite majority Iran for influence across the broader Islamic world, although Pakistan is far less ideological than either country.

Iran considers northern and western Afghanistan as its sphere of influence since its population is Persian Dari speaking . Pakistan considers southern and western Afghanistan as its sphere of influence since it is Pashto speaking like the North-West Frontier Province. Pakistan expresses concern over India's plan to build a highway linking the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar to Zahedan, since it will open Afghanistan's border to the benefit of Iran. There are still sporadic incidents of attacks on Pakistani Shias, and allegations that Pakistan is attempting to change the demographic balance of the Northern AreasFact|date=July 2008.

Both the countries joined the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a derivative of Regional Co-operation for Development (RCD), which was established in 1964. The ECO groups neighboring non-Arab Muslim states. As part of this regional organizational framework both countries continue to cooperate on trade and investment. In 2005, Iran and Pakistan conducted US$500 million of trade. The land border at Taftan is the conduit for trade in electricity and oil. Iran is extending its railway network towards Taftan but the gauges are of different sizes, 1435mm and 1676mm respectively. The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is currently under discussion. It could be a major development between all three nations. Distrust between India and Pakistan over violence in Kashmir, and transit fees is delaying this project. In addition international sanctions on Iran due to its controversial nuclear program could derail the project altogether. However, if India ever goes through with its threat to withdraw from the treaty if concessions are not made by Pakistan in regards to transit fees, China has already showed willingness to accept Pakistan's conditions and would finance the pipeline's construction into Xinjiang Autonomous Region in western China.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran is selected by the President of Iran. Manouchehr Mottaki is the current acting Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini is the official spokesman.

International organization participation

CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-15, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, SCO (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WCO WFTU, WEF,
WHO, WMO, WTO (observer)




ee also

*Diplomatic missions of Iran
*Geography of Iran
*Iran-Contra Affair
*Iran–Iraq War
*Iran-Iraq relations
*List of diplomatic missions in Iran
*United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747

External links

* [ Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
* [ Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations in New York]
* [ The EU's relations with Iran]
*Dr. Abdel-Fattah Mady, [ Iranian-Egyptian Relations]
*Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri, [ Iranian Foreign Policy: Between Ideology and Pragmatism]
* [ Ups and Downs of US-Iran Relations (Timeline)]

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