The Ideological Basis of the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Policy

Despite the characterization of the Iranian Revolution as Islamic, its political ideology and, in particular, its worldview owes more to non-Islamic sources, notably the following4:

1. Leftist Ideas. These ideas have greatly influenced the worldview of the IRI, partly because a faction of the Islamists was deeply influenced by Marxism which in the pre-revolution period was the dominant discourse among those opposed to the monarchy. The Islamic regime’s emphasis on anti-Imperialist struggle (Istikbar Setizi), especially its capitalist variety, is a direct outcome of this influence;

  • 2. Militant Third Worldism also influenced by leftist ideologies has tended to intensify the anti-Imperialist dimension of the regime’s worldview;
  • 3. Arab Radicalism again an ideology influenced by Marxist ideas has been partly responsible for Iran’s militant approach toward Israel and at least initial animosity toward conservative Arab governments, including those of the Persian Gulf. After all, Imperialism, International Zionism and Arab Reaction (meaning the Gulf and other Arab monarchies) had long before the Iranian revolution constituted the Unholy Trinity of the Arab Left. As many Iranian leftists and Islamist had trained in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) camps they had imbibed these notions;
  • 4. blamist Influences and Khomeini’s Views Iranian Islamists from the Fedaeian e Islam, who were influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhvan ul Muslimin) to more recent groups, despite being Shia, saw the West responsible for the fall of the Ottoman Empire and hence the fragmentation of the Islamic World. This factor, plus the creation of the State of Israel, was major reasons for the Iranian Islamists’ anti- Westernism. After the Second World War, because of growing American influence in Iran, this diffused anti-Westernism became focused on the US Khomeini shared this perspective and saw the only way to restore Muslims’ rights to be the restoration of the true Islam as opposed to the so-called American Islam, and greater unity among Muslims. Needless to say, he saw a leadership role for Iran in this context. Naturally and inevitably, such views were threatening to and unacceptable to other Muslim States, including those of the Persian Gulf; and
  • 5. Iran’s Historical Experience also contributed to the anti-Imperialist dimensions of the regime’s ideology, without explaining its excesses. Even the Shah, despite being seen as an American stooge, in many ways was a Third Worldist and resented excessive foreign influence in Iran. In fact, this characteristic was partly responsible for his troubles in the 1970s with Iran’s Western partners.5
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