Research Paper on Iran
Research Paper on Iran
Nowadays, Iran is one of the leading countries of the Middle East. It should be said that the country tends to the domination in the region of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East but the remarkable feature of this country is its ideology and the way of expansion that is, to a significant extent, determined by the dominating ideology of Iran. This ideology is radical Islamism which is not just an official religion of the state but actually the phenomenon that regulates all spheres of life of Iranian people, defines the norm of behavior and affects dramatically domestic and foreign policy of Iran.
The current development of Iran and its domestic and foreign policy is the result of the historical development of the country, in which the last few decades played a particularly significant role. To put it more precisely, it should be said that Iran was historically a Muslim country where Islam became a dominant religion. Even though this religion was brought to Iran from Arab states of the Middle East, Islam became extremely popular in the country to the extent that it gradually replaced local religions and other competitive religions that could potentially have developed in Iran.
At the same time, the spread of Islam in Iran led to quite unexpected results. In fact, the dominance of the Islamic religion in the country became not only a part of spiritual life of Iranian people but it also affected other spheres of life, including culture, economy and even politics. Islam became a very powerful tool in hands of the religious leaders of the country. In such a situation, it is quite natural that political leaders of the country had always to take into consideration the position of religious leaders of Iran. Any contradictions with religious leaders could result in the profound crisis within Iranian society.
However, the power of religion and religious leaders of Iran became absolutely evident in the late 1970s when Iranian people led by their religious leaders started their movement against monarchy. Gradually, the ruler of Iran at that epoch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi faced a serious problem of the social disobedience that eventually resulted in the revolution which became known as the Islamic Revolution. This was a really unique phenomenon since never before the revolution targeting at the fall of the monarch of a country and being led by religious leaders, has occurred in history. In fact, the Islam Revolution in Iran was not just led by the religious leaders of the country but it also had Islam as the basic ideology of the revolution. Practically, it means that Islam became the essential basis that united Iranian people and helped the leaders of the revolution to direct the movement of masses of people in the ‘right’ direction.
In the result of the Islamic Revolution, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled the country on January 16, 19791 and this day may be considered as the date of the final victory of the Islamic Revolution since its main goal was met and Iran was proclaimed the Islamic Republic headed by its new leader Ayatollah Ruholah Homeini. At the same time, it should be said that this revolution began with demonstrations in 1978 and eventually resulted in the total change of the ruling regime in Iran in 1979. To put it more precisely, in December 1979, the new Constitution of the country was approved and this Constitution was theocratic by nature. This means that religion played the main role in the life of the country and defined legislative norms, lifestyle, policy and all spheres of social life. Instead of the overthrown Shah, Khomeini became the Supreme Leader, the new head of the country that was an absolutely new phenomenon for Iran that got used to the traditional monarchy. However, it was not the only change brought by the Islamic Revolution to Iran. The national monarchy was totally replaced by a theocratic regime based on Guardianship of Islamic Jurists2.
This revolution was really unusual and unique for the world because there were no traditional causes of the revolution that led to the change of the regime or ruling dynasty. Instead, it was rather the anti-monarchist movement inspired by the ideals of Islam and the hope for the radical improvement of the life of all Iranian people who would get an opportunity to live in accordance with the norms of Islam and, thus, create a new country where the life of all people will be in balance with divine rules. Remarkably, this ideological basis of the revolution became even stronger than a numerous and well-trained army and security services which turned to be unable to win the information or ideological law against Islamist. This fact is of a paramount importance to the further history of Iran and the modern world at large since it significantly influenced the current position of the country and its domestic and foreign policy as well as the relations of Iran with other countries of the world.
The Iranian export of revolution
Speaking about the Islamic Revolution, it should be said that it is probably the last radical revolution that occurred in the world in the 20th century after the series of communist revolutions started in Russia in 1917 and continued throughout the world, including Asia and even Cuba in North America. The analogy of the Islamic Revolution and communist revolution is not occasional. Similarly to classics of communism, such as Karl Marx, F. Engels, V. Lenin, L. Trotsky, the leaders of the Islamic Revolution and their followers targeted at the export of the revolution to other countries, basically focusing on the neighboring states and countries where Islam historically played the dominant role.
It is necessary to underline that, to a significant extent, the strategy of exporting the Islamic Revolution to other countries was determined by the position of Iran and the historical reality of that epoch. To put it more precisely, Iran was the first country where the Islamic Revolution had occurred. The legal ruler of the country, Shah Mohammed Rezi Pahlavi escaped from Iran and survived that naturally created the potential threat to the new ruling regime in Iran. Consequently, the country needed to fully legitimate the new regime and gain international support. For this purpose Iran needed to return the Shah back to Iran in order to fully control his actions and gain possibly wider international support. In order to fulfill the first purpose, Iran had to start a serious conflict with the US which consequences are still relevant even at the present moment and it resulted in the confrontation of Iran and the US3.
The fulfillment of another goal, in such circumstances, i.e. gaining of the international support, became strategically and even vitally important task for the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that having a conflict with the US, Iran could hardly appeal to another superpower for the support since the USSR was a communist state and officially religion was neglected by its ruling regime. As a result, formally, the Islamist republic could hardly find some common ideological basis with the communist state.
Consequently, Iran naturally faced the necessity to develop its own ideology and build up its own network of states and non-governmental organizations that could support the country in its international relations. It should be said that the export of the revolution was the logical step from the part of Iran since it really provided excellent opportunities to gain the international support of new Islamist states and, what is more, spread its ideology throughout the world. In this respect, it is again possible to refer to the experience of socialist revolutions led by communist parties in different countries of the world after 1917. Potentially, exporting the Islamic Revolution to other countries, Iran could create an alternative to both capitalist and communist system. In other words, Iran could become the third superpower, a kind of alternative to the two existing ideologies and superpower states.
However, Iran did not have and still does not have economic and technological resources to make such a breakthrough to become one of the world’s leading countries. Nevertheless, due to its strategy of exporting the Islamic Revolution, Iran could significantly improve its position in the region and in the Middle East4. In actuality, its ideology remained the major and the most powerful tool in hands of the leaders of Iran throughout the decades following the Islamic Revolution.
In such a situation, Iran needed to spread its own ideas in order to export the revolution to other countries. Naturally, since the major ideology of the revolution of Islam, Iran had chosen the development of various religious movements in different countries which could promote the idea of the Islamic Revolution and which could increase the popularity of Islam. As a result, Iran often used religious education as a tool of the ideological struggle with its opponents and as an effective means of spreading its ideology.
Alliances of Iran
Obviously, a pure propaganda of the ideas of the Islamic Revolution in Iran could be hardly effective without the support of Iranian export of the revolution by numerous movements that could lead the Islamic Revolution in other countries. At the same time, the Islamic Revolution in other countries was rather a long-term perspective, while Iran had needed the international support practically since the beginning of the new theocratic regime. The situation has not changed even nowadays, neither have the policy nor strategy of Iran used in its international relations.
In this respect, it should be said that one of the primary goals of Iran in the current situation of the permanent opposition to the rest of the world, basically non-Islamic countries led by the US, is the formation of international alliances with other countries in order to coordinate their actions and policy in their foreign affairs. It should be said that nowadays, the major opponent of Iran is the US, however, in the past it is possible to remind that Iraq was anther strong opponent with which the country had to war practically a decade throughout 1980s.
At the same time, Israel is another strategic direction where Iran can find allies. Obviously, it does not mean that Israel may be a potential ally of Iran but its confrontation with other Islamic countries along with the wide support of the US may be an excellent pretext for Iran to unite the opponents of Israel around the ideology of the Islamic Revolution or, at least, around Islam. It is necessary to underline that nowadays the major allies of Iran remains practically the same since the epoch of the Iran-Iraq war. To put it more precisely, its main allies were and still remain Syria, Lybia and North Korea, though nowadays, it is also possible to speak about Lebanon as one of the possible allies of Iran and where Hezbollah movement supported by Iran is particularly strong. Also, Iran attempts to build good relations with Russia and China though these countries are rather business partners of Iran than the countries where Iran can export its revolution or where it can find the understanding and real support of its ruling regime and dominating ideology.
In general, it should be said that the main allies of Iran are the countries which are traditionally perceived as outcasts in the international arena. This is quite natural since Iran, itself, is also viewed by many as a typical representative of outcast states. At the same time, it is important to underline that the government allies of Iran basically represent the states which attempt to oppose to the domination of the US in the modern world. This is why the alliances of Iran with other states may be viewed as a sort of the anti-American coalition.
However, Iran, basically due to its strategy of the export of the Islamic Revolution, often looks for non-governmental alliances with different organizations which operate in different countries of the world. Among the most widely known and very strong organizations that formed alliances with Iran may be named Hamas and Hezbollah which are often viewed as the organizations created or, at least, amply supported by Iran. The strategic use and potential of such non-governmental alliances is obvious. These alliances help Iran influence the policy of other states without any official interference in the domestic affairs of these states. For instance, Lebanon may be easily influenced by Iran by means of Hezbollah which is considered to be an organization created by Iran5. In fact, this organization represents a considerable military force which is vitally important to the defense of the country from any sort of aggression. Naturally, Iran can produce some pressure on such organizations and, thus, force governments where these organizations operate to coordinate their policy with Iran. As a result, Iran gets an excellent opportunity to play the dominant role in the Middle East where the majority of its allies are located.
The web of Iran outside its boundaries
Basically, the web of Iran outside its boundaries is quite wide but it is necessary to underline that the ideology that brought to the ruling regime of Iran a great success nowadays is a serious limitation in the spread of its ideas and influences in the world. However, at the present moment, Iran has neither financial, nor political, nor technological resources to develop the web of ally states and non-governmental organizations worldwide. This is why, currently, the web of Iran is basically located in Muslim countries where Islam plays an important role and where its dominance is historic and practically unarguable. At the same time, Iran tends to use the existing conflicts or international problems in its own interests.
In this respect, it should be said that basically the existing web that Iran attempts to improve and enlarge outside its boundaries is basically incorporates countries and regions where Islam is popular and, what is more, and this is a very important trend, where the anti-Americanism is particularly strong. In fact, it is even possible to estimate that the ‘Axe of Evil’, declared by the President Bush as the major supporter of terrorism and the great threat to the national interests of the US, may perfectly illustrate the current and potential allies of Iran in the international arena.
On the other hand, it is quite difficult to speak about the web of Iran since the country, naturally, attempts to hide its presence in different regions or other countries since it would reveal the basic strategic movements made by Iran in recent years. No wonder, Iran tends to reject any allegations in the support of various Islamist organizations throughout the world. This is why it is highly problematic to prove factually the influence of Iran on some organizations or presence of powers supported by Iran in this or that country6. This means that Iran attempts to support guerilla movements in order to be able to use their potential in the case of possible military conflicts or as a means of influencing other countries, as it has been already mentioned above.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to trace the major points where the role of Iran is quite significant or, at least, where Iran attempts to play the major role. Obviously, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East are the major targets of Iran in its foreign policy and, consequently, this region is the major part of the web created by Iran. Iran tends to create a kind of anti-American coalition because the US is currently its major opponent in the international arena. Therefore, it is quite logical that Iran looks for support among other states opposing to the US or its allies.
In this respect, it should be said that countries that oppose to Israel as the major partner of the US in the Middle East are the main allies of Iran and the main areas where Iran attempts to develop its own network. Among these countries may be named Syria, for instance, or Lebanon. In fact, Iran actively supports anti-Israeli movements such as Hamas. At the same time, in recent years, Iran pays a lot of attention to the Eastern direction. It should be said that unstable Afghanistan may be also an area where Iranian web is gradually growing. This country may be particularly perspective to Iran because ideologically Iranian people and people inhabiting Afghanistan are close to each other and the ideas of the Islamic Revolution are still strong in Afghanistan where the influence of the Taliban movement is still quite significant.
At the same time, Iran also has such traditional partners as North Korea in the far East and this country may be also viewed as a part of Iranian web because it also opposes to the US and it can be really helpful in the opposition of Iran to the US. In this respect, the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea are quite noteworthy because both countries have their own nuclear program that can be a serious threat to the stability in their regions, the Middle East and the Far East respectively. Obviously, these regions are strategically important to the US since any military conflict in one of these regions or growing tension in the Middle East or North Korea can deteriorate the situation in the international markets and, thus, it can produce a negative impact on the international trade, economic relations as well as it can deteriorate the economic development of the US.
Also, it should be pointed out that Iraq has become another extremely important part of Iranian web in recent years. After the downfall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq became the territory of the permanent struggle of the official Iraqi military and police forces and the troops of coalition led by the US, on the one hand, and terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda, on the other hand. Naturally, Iran can hardly fail to benefit from such unstable situation in Iran and this is why Iran can increase its presence in Iraq by supporting local anti-American radical Islamist movements. In fact, at the present moment Iraq is the territory where the dream of Iranian leaders about the export of the Islamic Revolution can come true since the role of Islam in Iraq is very significant while the current situation in the country may be characterized as chaotic. In fact, there is no stability and even the exiting government cannot be viewed as widely supported institution that could function effectively if the coalition troop withdrew7 from Iraq. In other words, the meager stability and the government of Iraq is basically supported by the US army and its allies. This is why the presence of the US in the country is strategically important because in the case of its withdrawal, Iran, as the major power in the region can easily influence Iraq and assist one of the radical Islamist movements, including Al-Qaeda to take power in the country. In such a way, Iran perfectly realizes the potential of the region and, regardless rejection of allegations in supporting terrorists in Iraq, Iran, in all probability, participates, though indirectly, in the conflict in the area which is now one of the main points of its web outside Iranian boundaries.
Saeed Shaabanee and Tawheed movement in relation to Iran
On analyzing the web created by Iran outside its boundaries, it is necessary to point out that despite seemingly close religious views many Islam countries oppose to the influence of Iran and the spread of the idea of the Islamic Revolution. For instance, it is not a secret that many countries of the Middle East do not accept the radicalism of Iranian leaders. In this respect, it should be said that some specialists even speak about the division of the Muslim world into two distinguishable parts: Islamic and Arab ones8. What is meant here is the fact that many Arabian states do not accept the ideas of Iran because they simply have different views on Islam and its role in the socio-economic and political life of countries. Basically, such a difference in views is provoked by the fact that Iran and its closest allies support a different movement in Islam than other countries of the Middle East, including Arabian countries.
In order to better understand such a significant difference in views of Muslim countries, it is necessary to refer to the figure of Saeed Shabaanee and his Tawheed movement. It should be pointed out that Saeed Shabaanee’s ideas and Tawheed movement were and still are extremely popular in Iran. It should be said that the principal ideas of Saeed Shabaanee promoted by his movement known as Tawheed movement is the idea of the unity of Allah9. Practically, this means that the adepts of this movement perceive Allah as the only and supreme deity to the extent that they do not accept an idea that there may exist any other deity or some divine creature. In fact, they strongly believe that Allah is the only God that actually rules the world and it is necessary to follow strictly the norms of Islam without any liberalization. The latter is considered to be the violation of norms of Islam and, thus, it goes against the will of Allah the supreme power that controls human life and even afterlife. As a result, Tawheed movement totally rejects the belief in any other God but Allah and its adepts believe that Allah cannot be held equal to any other being or concepts. This kind of monotheism is absolute10.
However, even though these ideas can be justified to all Muslims, there are still different movements in Islam which interpret the ideas of Saeed Shabaanee in different ways. To put it more precisely, it is possible to divide the Muslim world into Shi’i and Sunni. The former are more radical and do not accept any changes or free interpretation of Islamist postulates. This fraction of Islamist is dominant in Islam and Iranian main allies, at least the organizations Iran actively supports, are mainly Shi’i. For instance, in Iraq Shi’is make up about 60% of the population, in Bahrain 70%, in Syria, which Iran actively supports and influences, Shi’is also constitute a substantial part of the population, in Lebanon Shi’is are the largest sect constituting 40% of the population11.
As a result, it is possible to estimate that Iran basically supports more radical movement in Islam and, naturally, countries where more moderate view on Islam is spread do not really accept the radical ideas of Iranian Islamic Revolution. Nevertheless, often the ideas developed by Saeed Shabaanee grow more and more popular in the areas inhabited by Muslims when their socio-economic situation deteriorates in the result of economic crisis or military aggression. In this respect, it is quite noteworthy that the predominantly shi’i states are those bordering on Israel, such as Syria and Lebanon, or states that suffered from wars and a profound socio-economic crisis, such as Iraq.
Iran as a threat to the US
Naturally, the spread of the radical ideas of the Islamic Revolution, as well as any other radical ideas, cannot fail to affect the democratic countries of the world. In fact, it is not a secret that the Islamic Revolution and the current regime in Iran are characterized by the violation of basic human rights. Moreover, the foreign policy of Iran is accompanied by extreme aggressiveness. Obviously, these trends are really disturbing for the entire democratic world and for the US, as the leading democratic country in particular.
At the same time, it is necessary to underline that nowadays, Iran is viewed as a serious threat to the US that is actually right but it is worthy of mention that the threat from the part of Iran to the US should be viewed in two dimensions: political and economic.
First of all, it should be said that politically, Iran tends to establish its own control over the countries of the Middle East. In this respect, the example of the allies of Iran, such as Syria and Lebanon, demonstrates the power of this country and its ability to influence its partners. This is why Iran, as well as its allies, becomes a subject of international sanctions targeting at the changing of the policy in these countries, including their democratization. Consequently, Iran is a real threat to the political dominance of the US in the region of the Middle East.
However, the political dominance would be practically useless, if it were not supported by economic factors. At this point Iran represents probably even a more serous threat to the US. it should be said that Iran is one of the largest exporters of oil and gas in the Persian Gulf as well as in the world. This is why it can conduct an independent economic policy which may hurt the US economic interests.
Furthermore, potentially, Iran can establish its control over the sea trade in the Gulf due to its geographical position and military potential. Obviously, this is the greatest threat that the US wants to avoid by all means because if Iran establishes its control over sea trade in the Gulf than the US as well as other countries of the world that heavily rely on the oil and gas from the Persian Gulf will be dependent on Iranian political will. At any rate, Iran can influence the economic situation not only in the Persian Gulf but in the entire world.
Moreover, the spread of Iranian influence in the region of the Middle East can undermine the position of the US at large, and deprive the country of an opportunity to control the region. In order to fully realize the extent to which this region is economically important to the US it is just necessary to take into consideration the fact that the US is one of the major consumers of the Persian Gulf oil and often it is believed that oil is the major cause of all military conflicts in the region.
Naturally, the weakening of the position of the US in the Persian Gulf can undermine its further economic development and weaken its position in the world at large. Moreover, it can also lead to a profound socio-economic crisis resulting from the possible changes of oil prices which could not be either controlled or influenced by the US anymore. This is why Iran is one of the major threats to the national interests of the US in the modern world.
Movements supported by Iran in the modern world
In fact, the variety of movements supported by Iran is another threat to the US because often these movements are characterized as terrorist organizations. Among the most significant movements supported largely by Iran may be named Hamas. This organization basically targets at the struggle against Israel to the extent that the movement insists on the elimination of Israel as an independent state. It should be said that this movement, as well as other movements supported by Iran is religious by nature and, what is more, it supports the most radical Islamist ideas. Naturally, this movement is quite aggressive and its actions weaken substantially Israel.
In fact, the same may be said about Hezbollah which is another radical Islamist movement based in Lebanon. This movement is ideologically close to the ideals of the Islam Revolution and it also treats Israel as the major threat to Lebanon and the Muslim world. As a result, Hezbollah also leads an active struggle against Israel and its permanent attacks on this country have recently resulted in the July War that led to the intervention of Israeli army in Lebanon.
Also, it should be said that Iran actively supports other radical movements, including probably the most notorious one, Al-Qaeda. This movement is currently very active in Iraq and leads the clandestine war against the official government and the coalition troops in Iraq. It is important to underline that Iraqi Islamists are ideologically nourished by their Iranian supporters.
In fact, such support of radical Islamist movements by Iran is the realization of the idea of the export of the Islamic Revolution. At the same time, it is an excellent opportunity for Iran to spread its influence on other countries of the region. Basically, such a policy has a dubious effect. On the one hand, Iran acquires new supporters in other countries of the Middle East. On the other hand, Iran undermines its major opponents in the region, i.e. Israel and the US without even being engaged directly in the military conflict.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the current policy of Iran, which originates from the Islamic Revolution, may be potentially dangerous to the neighboring countries as well as for the entire world. In actuality, the policy of Iran targeting at the formation of a kind of anti-American and anti-Israeli coalition along with the support of numerous guerilla movements, which are characterized as terrorist movements, can lead to negative outcomes. To put it more precisely, such a policy obviously undermines the stability in the region. In fact, the support of various movements leads to the situation when the threat of civil conflicts or even wars between different Islamist groups within one and the same country is very significant. In this respect, the example of the conflict between Shi’is and Sunnis in Iraq is a serious warning to other countries that accept the help of Iran and readily absorb the ideas of the Islamic Revolution. At the same time, the instability of the Middle East region can lead to the economic crisis in global terms. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the Gulf War in 1991, when the destruction of oil fields of Kuwait practically ruined the national economy while the long-running war could lead to the lack of oil in the world and, thus, to the economic crisis in the entire world. Taking into consideration the military potential and the growing influence of Iran in the region the threat of similar crisis in the future may be quite real.
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