Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Abdelwahab Hechiche, Ph.D.

Keywords

Velayat-e faqih, Pragmatism, Ultimate ideology, Anarchy, Survival, Self-help, Hegemony, Nuclear program

Abstract

This study argues that security and foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is mainly driven by the main principles of the Offensive Realism theory of international relations. While the Iranian political system is considered a theocratic system, based on the Islamic Shi'a ideology, its survival is defined as the ultimate ideology-an ideology that is paramount to any other ideology. Iran's security and foreign policy is determined and shaped by its need to survive in an anarchic international system. Iran's cooperation with "two Satans", Israel and the United States, during the Iran-Iraq war demonstrates that the ultimate ideology of survival dominates over any other ideological predisposition. In addition, the lack of a supranational government and the fear about the intentions of other states make Iran aware of the need to rely on self-help. Iran has also realized that the best way to limit threats to its survival would be maximizing its relative military power and becoming a regional hegemony. Furthermore, a formidable military power would provide Iran with a new status in regional and global politics, deterrence power over any possible attack from other great powers, and bargaining power over regional and global matters. In order to enhance its military (conventional and nuclear) arsenal, Iran has established "strategic relations" with its historic enemy, Russia.

In its quest to advance its military capabilities and avoid threats to its sovereignty, Iran sided with Christian states, against its Muslim brothers, during the Russia-Chechnya and Armenia-Azerbaijan conflicts. Moreover, the Islamic state is aware of the fact that its paramount goals can be achieved by relying on precise rational strategies. In order to validate these claims, this study analyzes Iran's policy during the Iran-Iraq war and Iran's policy toward Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the Russian-Chechen conflict, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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