Scholarship on Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors predominantly focuses on India, Afghanistan and, most recently, China. Little research is conducted on relations between Pakistan and Iran. This is an obvious gap, given the cultural and religious links between these two neighbors that share a 909-kilometer border.1 Their relationship is often viewed as peripheral to Pakistan’s relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, India, and Afghanistan.2 A prominent source on Pakistan’s foreign policy, Abdul Sattar’s Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947-2016: A Concise History, does not even dedicate a subsection to Iran.3 Furthermore, little attention has been given to the impact of domestic factors on Pakistan’s foreign-policy choices. Although some scholars have explored the role of identity,4 the interplay between domestic considerations and external behavior remains understudied. As will be argued below, this dynamic has a significant bearing on Pakistan’s policy on Iran and sheds light on behind-the-scene dynamics that are often overlooked.
Iran has pursued a highly contradictory policy towards Afghanistan. On the one hand, it became a significant beneficiary of the overthrow of the Taliban regime by the US-led military intervention in 2001 in Afghanistan. The new Afghan government established cordial ties with Iran, allowing it to expand its political, economic and cultural influence in the country. Yet Iran has also provided significant support to the Taliban in its campaign to violently upend the political, social and economic processes in the country. This article examines the underlying domestic and regional security dynamics that contribute to this contradictory behaviour. It offers an assessment of how tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic, as well as Tehran’s growing threat perception following the rise of the Islamic State – Khorasan in 2014, impact on Iran’s policy towards the Taliban. The paper argues that Tehran views the Taliban as an instrument to disrupt the influence of other actors in Afghanistan. The instrumentalisation of the Taliban, however, is likely to be counterproductive for Iranian security in the long run as it contributes to Afghanistan’s instability and insecurity and undermines Iran’s own long-term interests.
The Kurdish population in Iran feels disenfranchised and excluded from the political system. Based on an original survey of Iranian Kurds, it is revealed that Kurds lack trust and confidence in the central government and do not exhibit any emotional connection with Iranian identity or the Islamic Republic of Iran. Overwhelmingly, survey respondents put their Kurdish identity and affiliations as the primary point of reference. This emotional and political disconnect with Iran poses a serious challenge to the incumbent regime. It is an affront to the official rhetoric of ethnic unity and Iranian solidarity that is reinforced by Islamic principles under the Islamic Republic of Iran. This has led the incumbent regime to opt for a security response to a clearly political challenge. However, as the survey data in this research reveals, the securitisation of Iran’s response to its Kurdish population is only widening the gap, and aggravating the situation. The securitised approach to Kurdish aspirations for inclusion and acceptance is a counterproductive strategy with significant risks for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This paper examines the impact that cross-border contacts and ideals of transnational Kurdish community have on Kurds in Iran. Incorporating survey and interview data from Iranian Kurdish academics, journalists and activists, it analyses how events in the broader Kurdistan region, and the notion of Kurdayetî – pan-Kurdish identity – are perceived by Kurds and how these phenomena affect the Kurdish issue. Within the context of long-standing political grievances, the findings highlight an atmosphere of distrust pervading the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Kurds, and reveals that as Kurds find it difficult to identify with the Iranian state they turn towards their cross-border ethnic kin. Yet, despite increasing cross-border interaction and recent advances for Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, internal and external dynamics curtail Iranian Kurds’ political ambitions and preclude secessionist impulses.
The effectiveness of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was challenged after the suspension of Syria’s membership in 2012. There were already indications of Iranian–Saudi rivalry on the issue of Syria’s membership, but the 2016 summit held in Turkey became the stage for a very public dispute between the two states. This was not the first time that the OIC had been undermined by interstate rivalry. Formed in 1969 to project an image of political unity among Muslim states, it has often been challenged by the identity politics and geopolitical competition of its member states. This paper studies the factors that contribute to interstate tensions within the OIC and its approaches to addressing it. By examining a series of OIC events during the period 2012–18 through the lens of critical discourse analysis, it argues that identity politics in the form of sectarianism have been employed, more overtly since the Arab Spring, by both Iran and Saudi Arabia to promote their geopolitical agendas with direct implications for the coherence of OIC. The rivalry not only threatens to fracture the OIC but also makes the notion of Muslim unity nothing more than a mirage.
This handbook examines the regional and international dynamics of the Middle East. It challenges the state society dichotomy to make sense of decision-making and behavior by ruling regimes. The 33 chapter authors include the world’s leading scholars of the Middle East and International Relations (IR) in order to make sense of the region. This synthesis of area studies expertise and IR theory provides a unique and rigorous account of the region’s current dynamics, which have reached a crisis point since the beginning of the Arab Spring.
The Middle East has been characterized by volatility for more than a century. Although the region attracts significant scholarly interest, IR theory has rarely been used as a tool to understand events. The constructivist approach in IR highlights the significance of state identity, shaped by history and culture, in making sense of international relations. The authors of this volume consider how IR theory can elucidate the patterns and principles that shape the region, in order to provide a rigorous account of the contemporary challenges of the Middle East.
The Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East provides comprehensive coverage of International Relations issues in the region. Thus, it offers key resources for researchers and students interested in International Relations and the Middle East.
The Syrian conflict, now in its eighth year, is a bitter example where a sovereign state and the international community have manifestly failed in their responsibilities to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes. What factors have prevented the international community from fulfilling its obligation under the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to save Syrian civilians? This paper argues that the contradiction between the protection of civilians and regime change has undermined international confidence in the principle of R2P and tarnished it as a tool for US foreign policy agendas. This argument is developed by a review of R2P’s conceptualisation followed by examining its implementation in Libya. This study concludes that the conceptual confusion and the Libyan experience have broken the international consensus on R2P and paralysed the United Nations in dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Syria. More specifically, the UN Security Council’s disagreement over the means to protect Syrians has made R2P itself an impediment to its operationalisation.
There is a widespread assumption that, given the imminent threat of mass atrocities against the Libyan civilians – especially in Benghazi – and in the absence of non-military alternatives, military action against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was a justified and necessary response. This paper challenges this widespread assumption. It argues that on the eve of NATO-led military intervention, there was no ‘clear evidence’ to suggest that the Libyan regime was on the verge of committing mass atrocities against civilians. This research also documents the range of political and diplomatic options open to the international community to engage with Gaddafi, all of which were sidetracked in favour of military action. Despite the brutality of Gaddafi’s rule, military intervention in Libya did not meet the Responsibility to Protect’s (R2P) ‘just cause’ and ‘last resort’ criteria. Far from being a successful application of R2P’s most coercive pillar, the Libyan case was a manifest misapplication of R2P’s military component. An objective analysis of the Libyan crisis during February and March 2011 should have prevented the use of military force.
The contemporary Middle East has been defined by political crises and conflict. The interplay of internal and external factors have set the region on a path of turmoil and crisis with devastating outcomes for its people. The absence of political accountability and representation, and policies pursued by the United States to keep US-friendly regimes in power have been two key factors that have contributed to the seemingly insoluble Middle East politics.
This book provides a detailed exploration of the forces, internal and external, that have shaped today’s Middle East. The book follows a chronological order and provides context to major political milestones.
Topics explored include:
• Imperialism in the Middle East
• The formation of the State of Israel
• The Arab–Israeli wars
• Palestinian politics and the failure of the ‘peace process’
• The Iranian Revolution and pan-Shi’ism
• Superpowers in the Middle East
• The US-led ‘War on Terror’
• The Arab uprisings
• The Syrian War and the rise of the ‘Islamic State’
• US–Iran relations
This study puts recent developments in historical context, and will serve as a core reference tool for students and researchers of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations.
This book uses a Contentious Politics lens to examine patterns of contestation since 2009 and 2011 among the Middle East’s most important opposition actors. The volume is comprised of seven chapters that ask questions in relation to the responsiveness of opposition groups to their political environments, the long-term legacies of authoritarianism, and whether the post-2009/2011 political environment is better or worse for Middle Eastern oppositions. It interrogates the ways in which oppositions have morphed in relation to this changed operating environment, subjectively interpreting the costs and benefits of contestation in order to maximise political opportunities. To some oppositions, changes in the power balance between regime structures and opposition agents led to unprecedented opportunity for political action, while for others, structures were galvanised to restrict opposition activities. In total, the volume shows that even though the Arab Uprisings and Green Movement achieved few of their overt goals, the events unleashed smaller shifts across the region that have led to a fundamental change in the politics of contestation amongst the region’s oppositions. These patterns echo experiences in other parts of the world, including the coloured revolutions in post-Soviet states, and the political environment in Chile after Pinochet.
Iran’s political system benefits from dual sources of legitimacy, which seemingly enables Iran’s ruling clergy to proclaim their system to be the ultimate representation of a perfect political system, one that brings Islam and democracy together. Questioning this propaganda-laden claim, we suggest that this duality has embedded an inherent contradiction between the theory and practice of an Islamic Republic. Indeed, it is for this reason that elected and appointed offices in Iran have been continually embroiled in tense relations since the inception of the Islamic Republic. Elaborating on the country’s electoral rules and procedures, it is suggested that despite the vetting of candidates by the appointed Guardian Council, Iranian elections are highly competitive and revolve around issues of national importance such as the economy and social issues. This chapter offers a detailed investigation of the challenges that have arisen from the inherited contradiction between divine and popular sovereignty, which has gained considerable credence during Hassan Rouhani’s presidency. This inherent contradiction at times appears to tilt in favour of popular sovereignty. However, that is only because the political elite are acutely aware of the fact that without the illusion of popular rule, the regime could very well be cast aside, mirroring the fate of the Pahlavi regime. It is argued that Rouhani’s achievements do not address the contradiction between divine and popular sovereignty, but rather illuminate the astute political calculations made in the top echelons of power in order to create a semblance of popular rule. This chapter argues that the Iranian system of government is based on a clear hierarchy of authority in which divine sovereignty in the form of velāyat-e faqih hovers over the empty shell of democracy.
This volume extends debates on the interaction between universal human rights and the political experiences of Iranians, through a conceptual analysis of ‘theories of change’. It assesses the practical processes by which individuals, organizations and movements can reform or impact the structural, theological and political challenges faced in the Iranian context.
Contributors to this volume investigate how structures, institutions, and agents in Iran maneuver for influence and power at the state level, through the law, in international corridors, at the grassroots, and by implementing multiple and complex methods. The chapters provide distinct but interrelated analysis of key drivers of change in Iran. A number of those operate primarily through top-down approaches, such as the political reform movement, lawyers pursuing legislative change, and international human rights monitoring bodies. Others take a bottom-up approach, including local movements and campaigns such as the women’s movement, the labor movement, the student movement, and ethnic minority groups.
By prompting drivers of change to think about causation, influence, sequencing, prioritization, roles and relationships, a theory of change ultimately makes the work more effective. Through rigorous analysis of these issues for drivers of change in the Islamic State, this volume is an important contribution to human rights in Iran. In an era of escalating tensions in the Middle East, it amplifies voices of reform and freedom, filling a crucial gap in our understanding of this region.
Iran is expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China and Iran had a track record of cooperation long before the announcement of BRI, developing a highly asymmetric Great Power-Middle Power partnership over the course of three decades. This article asks whether BRI will enable China and Iran to transcend the limitations faced by most Great Power-Middle Power relationships on the basis of Iran’s enhanced strategic economic and geographic value. It is argued that while BRI could benefit from stronger China–Iran ties, Iran’s international posturing has proven a significant hindrance to China, highlighting that entrenched patterns of engagement in Great Power-Middle Power relations are not easily shifted, even in the face of immense economic incentives.
After decades of turmoil a new phase is opening up for Afghanistan, in which a new generation comes to the fore as many of the key players from earlier phases, including foreign interventionist powers, leave the scene. Although this new phase offers new possibilities and increased hope for Afghanistan’s future, the huge problems created in earlier phases remain. This book presents a comprehensive overall assessment of the current state of politics and society in Afghanistan, outlining the difficulties and discussing the future possibilities. Many of the contributors are Afghans or Afghan insiders, who are able to put forward a much richer view of the situation than outside foreign observers.
The Small Gulf States analyses the evolution of these states’ foreign and security policies since the Arab Spring. With particular focus on Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, it explores how these states have been successful in not only guaranteeing their survival, but also in increasing their influence in the region. It then discusses the security dilemmas small states face, and suggests a multitude of foreign and security policy options, ranging from autonomy to influence, in order to deal with this. The book also looks at the influence of regional and international actors on the policies of these countries. It concludes with a discussion of the peculiarities and contributions of the Gulf states for the study of small states’ foreign and security policies in general.
Providing a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the unique foreign and security policies of the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) before and after the Arab Spring, this book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of Middle East studies, foreign policy and international relations.
The events of the 2016 summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey demonstrate how Saudi Arabia’s role within the organization has been transformed from leadership into a hegemonic one, a process that has been unfolding over five decades. As a strong voice in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia has employed a range of diplomatic strategies, in accordance with its national interests, to influence the OIC and its member states. Based on the analysis, this paper argues that Saudi Arabia has been able to exert hegemonic control over the OIC due to the organization’s structural make-up, its reliance on Saudi funding, as well as dominance in bilateral affairs with majority of the OIC members.
Islamophobia has become a significant problem across the Western world. Australia is no exception. The emergence of far right groups and a political environment that allows anti-Islamic discourse has created an increasingly unwelcome environment for Muslims, even though multiculturalism has long been a fundamental marker of Australian daily life. The rise of Islamophobia has been damaging to Australia. This paper explores the rise of anti-Islamic sentiments in Australia and the increasing marginalization of Muslim youth, showing that Islamophobia not only breaks the bond between Muslim youth and Australian society, it also polarizes relations within Australian Muslim communities.
This article examines the role of corporate identity in Iran’s foreign policy making. Drawing on interviews with Iranian stakeholders and an analysis of Iran’s political developments, this article surveys the three key elements of Iranian nationalism that shape Iranian foreign policy: Iranism, Islam and Shi’ism. This article finds that each of these is crucial in explaining the apparent contradictions in the approaches of several significant Iranian leaders, especially in cases where Iranism collides with religious values. By highlighting how each component is at once unique but still intrinsically linked to the others, this article demonstrates how Iran’s foreign policy choices can be understood in relation to its corporate identity.
President Hassan Rouhani surprised onlookers in June 2013 by winning the first round of the Iranian presidential election outright. Rouhani had campaigned on a platform of moderation, promising to form a “government of prudence and hope,” and raising expectations of an imminent shift in Iran’s international engagement.1 On the campaign trail, Rouhani broke a number of political taboos. He criticized media censorship in a live television interview, questioned the need for heavy-handed state security, and declared that the 2009 postelection protests were “natural and popular.”2 These statements were seen as potentially significant given that the two reformist candidates from the 2009 election (Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi) remained under house arrest, accused of carrying out a foreign plot against the Islamic regime.
US Foreign Policy and Iran is a study of US foreign policy decision-making in relation to Iran and its implications for Middle Eastern relations. It offers a new assessment of US-Iranian relations by exploring the rationale, effectiveness and consequences of American policy towards Iran from the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution to the present day.
As a key country in a turbulent region and the recipient of some of the most inconsistent treatment meted out during or after the Cold War, Iran has been both one of America’s closest allies and an ‘axis of evil’ or ‘rogue’ state, targeted by covert action and contained by sanctions, diplomatic isolation and the threat of overt action. Moreover, since the attacks of 11 September 2001, Iran has played a significant role in the war on terror while also incurring American wrath for its links to international terror and its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme.
US Foreign Policy and Iran will be of interest to students of US foreign policy, Iran, Middle Eastern Politics and international security in general
This book evaluates President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign policy during his first two years in office, looking at the case studies of Armenia, Azerbaijan, the UAE, Turkey, and Syria, as well as the Iran-US relationship. President Rouhani came to power in Iran in 2013 promising to reform the country’s long-contentious foreign policy. His top priorities were rehabilitating the Iranian economy, ending the nuclear dispute, rebuilding relations with the US, and mending ties with Iran’s neighbors. It is argued here that while President Rouhani has made progress in the Iran-US relationship, in nuclear negotiations and some bilateral relationships, his broader success has been hampered by regional political developments and domestic competition. Further, it is contended that his future success will be guided by emerging regional tensions, including whether Iran’s neighbors will accept the terms of the nuclear agreement.
The rise and subsequent erosion of friendly relations between Iran and Turkey was a result of their regional ambitions. While Turkey had long seen its secular system as presenting an alternative to Iran’s Islamic ideology, the alignment of their regional interests facilitated a rapport between the two states in the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, the Arab Spring proved divisive for this relationship as each state sought to advocate its model of government and secure a leadership role in the Arab world. The war in Syria widened the divide, as Iran’s long-standing support for the Bashar al-Assad regime could not be reconciled with Turkey’s desire to see President Assad out of office. Using a close reading of Persian and Turkish sources, the authors will analyse the Iran–Turkey divide, focusing specifically on how the Iranians have portrayed it as a clash of civilisations, citing Turkey’s so-called ‘neo-Ottoman’ ambitions as the primary cause.
Iran and Syria have enjoyed one of the most enduring alliances in the Middle East, with the relationship surviving the Iran—Iraq war, decades of international sanctions, and the Iranian nuclear dispute. The alliance took on new significance after the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011 when Iran, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, provided decisive diplomatic and materiel support for the Syrian regime. The largesse of this support suggested that for many in Tehran, the Iran—Syria alliance remained as important in 2011 as it was when it was established in 1979. The election of the reformist President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 appeared to complicate this calculus, with speculation emerging that he would temper Iran’s support for Syria. In practice, however, Rouhani’s response to Syria has been muted, reflecting an attempt to placate the international community while simultaneously preserving Iran’s most reliable regional alliance. In doing this, Rouhani has also inadvertently revealed the deeply polarizing impact that the Syrian crisis has had on the Iranian political elite, as well as the limits of presidential power in Iran.
The planned reductions in NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan through 2015 and a final withdrawal at the end of 2016 brings up numerous pressing questions about the security and national interests of not just Afghanistan, but of the broader region itself. The problem of a chaotic Afghanistan-or of an outright Taliban victory-is of great concern to not only immediate neighbors such as Iran, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Central Asian republics to the north, but also to those countries in the region with Afghanistan-related security or economic concerns, such as China and India. Further abroad, Russian, American and European interests and plans for dealing with the fallout from Afghanistan must also be taken into account as these major powers have enduring interests in Afghanistan and the region. This volume puts the prospects for short- and mid-term security dynamics at the core of the analysis, with each case being placed in its proper contemporary historical, economic, and political context. The book will offer a truly comprehensive, nuanced, and timely account of the security situation in and around Afghanistan
The current sectarian conflicts in the Middle East did not arise solely from renewed geopolitical rivalries between regional powers. They are also rooted in a solid, theological articulation proposed by classic Islamic political theology. The exclusivist approach, which is a decisive part of the political, social and religious reality of today’s Middle-East, benefits from a formidable theological legacy. Coining the notion of ‘othering theology’, this paper not only explores the ideas of leading classical theologians who have articulated a puritanical understanding of faith, but also explicates the politico-historical context in which these theologians rationalised their quarrels. Given the pervasive presence of these theologies in the contemporary sectarian polemics, the study of classical othering theology is highly relevant and, indeed, crucial to any attempt to overcome sectarianism in the region.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has pursued full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). In doing so, Iran has appeared to be unfazed by the prospect of allying with Russia and China, two countries which have systematically suppressed their Muslim minorities for decades. Similarly, the SCO’s Central Asian member states are led by individual leaders who are generally believed to rule in spite of their populations. As a result, Iran’s eagerness to join the SCO may appear to contradict its self-promoted image as the champion of Muslim interests, but in reality it sits nicely within its overarching enmity for the USA. Indeed, the SCO is seen as a geopolitical counterweight to the USA. For Iran, this geopolitical opportunity overrides ideological imperatives, with the gap between ideology and geopolitics most evident under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The popular revolutions that swept across the Arab world in late 2010 and 2011 were initially welcomed in Tehran as a vindication of its policies. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic of Iran had maintained a difficult relationship with its Arab neighbours, even fighting a bloody eight-year war with one. From the Iranian point of view, Arab governments had betrayed Islam by working closely with the United States and giving up on the Palestinian cause. At first glance, the Arab revolution that deposed the ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and the revolt in the Gulf sheikhdoms fitted neatly in the narrative of the Iranian regime. The Arab regimes were inclined to side with the United States in all international fora and were generally criticized for not representing the interest of their own people. But this interpretation of the Arab revolution as an automatic endorsement of the Iranian worldview was too simplistic to withstand the test of time. Very soon after the removal of Hosni Mubarak from office and the spread of unrest to Syria and Libya, the Iranian interpretation came under severe strain. In Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime, which had been hailed by the Iranian authorities as a genuine popular alternative to many other Arab states, seemed to face the same kind of popular unrest that had paralysed its neighbours. In Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood dismissed suggestions that it might follow the Iranian model. Iran’s binary worldview of believers versus disbelief could not explain the momentous events that engulfed the region. The Arab revolution presented a conceptual challenge to the Iranian worldview. This has reminded the leadership of the tenuous nature of their hold on power. The regime has responded by doubling security measures against its internal opposition, dubbed the Green Movement. Only a year after the regime managed to suppress its own opposition rallies, the Arab revolution has made it vulnerable once again. This chapter begins with a survey of the Iranian position with regard to the Arab revolution, and then explores the impact of the Bahrain and Syrian conflicts on Iran’s standing in the region. It argues that the double standard in relation to these conflicts has eroded Iran’s soft power on the Arab streets and led to its marginalization. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the internal implications of this strategic demise as the regime feels pressured from within and without.