Characteristics of a Revolutionary Foreign Policy Characteristics of a Revolutionary Foreign Policy
This article invistigates the characteristics of foreign policy of revolutionary political systems. The author strives to answer the question on the nature and quality of a revolutionary foreign policy. To do this, he focuses on the characteristics of the Islamic revolution and foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has been drawn up...

Mohsen Khalil

This article invistigates the characteristics of foreign policy of revolutionary political systems. The author strives to answer the question on the nature and quality of a revolutionary foreign policy. To do this, he focuses on the characteristics of the Islamic revolution and foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has been drawn up by the Assembly of Experts of Constitution in 1979 and emanated from innate traits of the revolution. According to the author, the main features of foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as mentioned in the Constitution, include cosmopolitanism, tendency to form an Islamic Ummah, showing reaction to past misconduct and being revolutionary. The author then refers to challenges and problems facing the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the course of time. In fact, domestic necessities and international requirements including hegemonic position of the United States, globalization and interdependency have radically changed the essence of the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Keywords: Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic Revolution, Constitution Experts, Revolutionary Foreign Policy


When drawing up a revolutionary constitution, the foreign policy will also become revolutionary and revolutionary forces use an imperative tone to change whatever deemed unsuitable outside of the revolutionary country. Here we have strived to assess this general presumption using Constitution as reference to show what was the essence of a revolutionary foreign policy after the victory of the Islamic revolution of Iran? The author has observed the presumption that regardless of the characteristics of the Islamic revolution of Iran, a special foreign policy has been formulated which was close to innate traits of the Islamic revolution. Then, the author presents his thesis as follows: “It seems that the Constitution experts of the Islamic Republic of Iran which founded the new revolutionary Constitution of the country have designed a special type of foreign policy which is characterized by being:

1. Internationalist: It requirs the revolution not only for Iran, but also for the rest of the world;

2. Seeking to support the Islamic Ummah: The Islamic revolution seeks to support the whole Islamic Ummah;

3. Showing reaction: The experts of Constitution negated all negative phenomena that were rife under the previous regime;

4. Revolutionary: Even their realistic approach was mainly revolutionary.”

In this article, the author has only focused on the viewpoints of the Constitution experts who came together in the form of Assembly of Experts in August 1979 to discuss draft Constitution of Iran, and will refrain from entering into practical aspects of the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran from February 1979 up to December 1979 when the Constitution was finally approved.


Characteristics of the Islamic Revolution of Iran

There have been few revolutionary theories to have been independent in themselves, but most of them are inspired by various theories. The Islamic revolution of Iran is extremely Islamist and has made good use of Islam to attain victory, on the one hand; while enjoying radical views opposed to status quo on the other. This was indicative of its leftist tendency which does not necessarily indicate that it was inspired by Marxism; but shows that it was a vintage anti-capitalistic and anti-imperialistic revolution. On the whole, major features of the Islamic revolution of Iran are inclination toward the Third World, fighting imperialism and imbalanced development, adhering to independence, and opposing the global system which differentiate it from other revolutionary discourses. Third Worldism was a viewpoint which emerged in the 1950s to 1970s as a substitute for orthodox Marxism and believed that all problems facing the Third World are caused by imperialistic influences and that the other flip side of development coin of the First World is the underdevelopment of the Third World. What is known as dependent capitalism is a deviated form of underdevelopment of the development promoted by Neocolonialism. That viewpoint contended that there is no prospect for the development of the Third World within a capitalistic context and that final solution to underdevelopment and colonialism in the Third World is to reject the imperialistic system through liberation movements and revolutions, rejecting imbalanced development and refraining from implementing American and Western renovation theories which will lead to lack of structural development and more dependence.(1) This school of thought will lead to radical nationalism in the Third World which failed several times in Iran, but has been revived during revolutionary struggles by resorting to some New Leftist theories.(2) In Iran, all intellectuals including religious and nonreligious figures are worried about Iran’s dependence on the West, especially the United States, but they have seldom succeeded to reveal accurate mechanisms that lead to dependence and were not able to come up with concepts and theories to both shed more light on situation of the country’s dependence and show a solution. It was the leftists who succeeded to present an accurate intellectual and revolutionary theory against the royal system by offering the theory of dependence capitalism and, of course, they were beholden to neo-Marxists. The Islamist elements, in the meantime, borrowed anti-dependence viewpoint and added opposition to the world order through the motto of ‘Neither East, Nor West’, to it. Growth of the leftist discourse in Iran occurred after 1969 and this coincided with the acme of anti-imperialistic discourses and the intervention of the United States in Iran’s affairs; so that, both religious and irreligious forces raised objections to economic, political and cultural plans of the former Shah which aimed to promote consumerism and westernization.(3) Perhaps it was for this reason that the Islamic revolution was a strangely unified process inside the country while its outside manifestation in other countries was one of staunch opposition to the Shah and the United States. However, for a reason which is known to us the power of religion in mobilizing various people determined the fate of the revolution because all people considered only Islam as an important ideology while looking upon other ideologies and schools of thought as being weak, useless and corrupt.(4) It is true that the Islamic revolution of Iran aimed to oppose imperialism and reject dependence (and this could have spread in an unreligious society in the form of new-Marxist theories) but a deeply religious society like Iran had to rely on an indigenized ideology such as Shiism. The Shii Islam not only promised to satisfy nationalistic, progressive aspirations of people, but also claimed to rebuild the lost cultural and ideological identity of the Iranian society and all-encompassing nature of the Islamic ideology greatly helped mobilize people around a single axis.(5) The special ideology which considered Islam as a flawless method of life, considered unreligious and western model of separation between religion and politics as the root cause of all problems and called for the rule of divine religion instead of western Capitalism, Marxism, or Socialism.(6) This ideology promised the establishment of a utopia and did not consider it as a land that never existed, but a plan that could be realized. Therefore, revolutionaries were greatly inclined to keep their word and, for this reason, were more than willing to export their revolution. Of course, exporting revolution could be the end result of all religious and traditional revolutions.(7) But in the Islamic revolution of Iran, independence-seeking, ummah-seeking, non-aligned aspects along with opposition to the world order were symbols to guarantee spread of Islam in the world and constituted aspects of spiritual and physical export of the revolution which indicated the emergence of a revolutionary foreign policy.


Revolutionary Foreign Policy

Foreign policies emanating from revolutions are modeled after revolutions. Due to the reasons which cannot be retold here, the Iranian revolution was based on severely religious militancy, conventional nationalism and Islamic nationalism and every one of those aspects enjoyed their own specifications.(8) However, foreign policy stemming from revolution shows some signs of it such as continuation of the revolution in the face of colonialism, stabilizing new identity of the country and reducing foreign influence.(9) Exporting revolution; Neither East, Nor West; rejecting dependence; independence in all fields; supporting liberation movements; supporting the oppressed; striving to establish the Islamic Ummah; protecting borders; balance in establishing bilateral and multilateral ties with other countries; negating hegemony and submissiveness; and accepting fair principles of international rights are all symbols of presence of various political cultures in the process of the Islamic revolution of Iran and indicate that a multifaceted revolutionary foreign policy has emerged after the victory of the Islamic revolution. In addition, exporting revolution is natural outcome of it which has nothing to do with color of skin, race and gender. The Islamist elements gradually overcame other political forces or cultures present in the course of the Islamic revolution of Iran. Therefore, the new words originating from Islam dominated conceptual atmosphere of the revolutionary foreign policy on the one hand, while due to all-out support of the Iranian nation and revolutionary leaders an Islamic, revolutionary foreign policy emerged out of religious contents of the revolutionary movement on the other. The main goal of foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran since the beginning of the new government was to promote and spread the revolutionary Islam. This goal was rooted in the task considered by the Koran for all Muslims to propagate the divine message throughout the world. The goal of exporting revolution was modeled after the spread and historical conquests of Islam as well as spread of the Islamic peace under the rule of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and succeeding caliphs. This approach was reflected in the viewpoint which believed in differentiating between the World of Islam and the World of Unbelievers.(10)

The final establishment of a world order under the umbrella of Islamic justice and man’s happiness in all fields is the final goal of a revolutionary and Islamic foreign policy which took opposite stances toward the United States and the former Soviet Union in various international fields, especially after takeover of US embassy in November 1979. Before the ultimate approval of Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic revolutionary foreign policy entered a new period in historical and conceptual terms which affected the rest of the post-revolutionary years through its long-term aftermath: The basic foreign policy of Iran changed during that period from a balanced foreign policy to a new foreign policy based on war between good and evil according to which the government accepted international order and tried to keep a balance in relations with other countries while protecting Iran’s national interests. After the second revolution (a euphemism for takeover of the US embassy) the foreign policy officials cast doubts on the legitimacy of international system. To support the interests of the Islamic Iran throughout the world, they negated the hegemony of both superpowers and attempted to challenge them through exporting the revolution to all countries. The second revolution introduced two principles of ‘Neither East, Nor West’, and ‘exporting revolution’ to Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy.(11) Being inspired by Ruhollah Ramezani’s model which considers characteristics of foreign policy of a country during reconstruction,(12) the Islamic and revolutionary foreign policy calls for more latitude in foreign policy sphere and seeks a more independent and active role. It demanded to take the initiative in international scene; to be able to use international potentials for getting other countries aligned with international system; to make efforts that would lead to diversification or even severance of old ties with former colonialists as well as foreign and international companies. It should be harmonized to show more coherence among goals and means used by revolutionaries; be complicated to boost its role in the face of other countries and international organizations and also seek a superior role. It should be effective to implement goals and policies of its designers. The Islamic revolutionary foreign policy arises from Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran and should choose out of various articles and chapters of the Constitution.


Revolutionary-Islamic Foreign Policy in the Light of Constitution

Principles of Iran’s foreign policy which arise from Iran’s Constitution can be another manifestation of its Islamic and revolutionary features and include: Man’s happiness in all human societies; regulating foreign policy of the country according to principles of Islam, continued guidance and leadership and its role in continuation of the Islamic revolution; supporting justified struggles of the oppressed against the oppressors at any point in the world; avoiding of interference in international affairs of other countries; brotherly commitment toward all Muslims; unity of Islamic nations and unity of the whole world of Islam; defending the rights of all Muslims; negating all kinds of oppression and hegemony; no commitment toward hegemonic powers; preventing economic dominance of foreigners; political, social, economic and cultural independence; negation of colonialism; preventing foreign influence; protecting territorial integrity; refraining from signing treaties that pave the way for domination of foreigners on natural, economic and cultural resources as well as military forces; establishing mutual cordial ties with non-belligerent states and granting refuge to asylum-seeking politicians from other nations who escape from oppression of their governments.(13) The goals of the Islamic and revolutionary foreign policy of Iran within the frame of the Constitution are as follows:

1. Striving to establish the unified world ummah;

2. Supporting the oppressed against oppressors;

3. Protecting independence and national sovereignty at international level;

4. Defending the rights of Muslims;

5. Invitation.(14)

The essence of the revolutionary and Islamic foreign policy which has been referred to in introduction and the text of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution clearly indicates the Islamic aspect of a dynamic and aggressive foreign policy whose goal is the unity of the Islamic world and spreading the rule of God on Earth.(15) This is the goal which revolutionaries sought to realize through the principle of ‘Neither East, Nor West’. This principle which was a novelty in the face of conventional principles in international arena, is different from the principles of positive and negative balance which have backgrounds in Iran’s history.(16) The said principle denounces the viewpoint of balance of powers for safeguarding the world peace and considers it an unjust principle that only seeks to protect the interests of great powers. This principle negates bipolarity of the world and considers both super powers as the components of world arrogance and deeply believes in a single world government under the flag of Islam.(17)

A) Article 2

 Taking advantage of modern sciences and techniques and striving to promote them;

 Negating all forms of oppression and domination and supporting comprehensive independence of the country. This principle was based on the second article of the draft Constitution and has not mentioned the four types of independence. The main feature of this principle is showing reaction to monarchy.

B) Article 3; clauses 5, 11, 13, 16

 Total negation of colonialism and preventing foreign influence;

 Protecting independence and territorial integrity;

 Providing self-sufficiency in all fields;

 Regulating foreign policy of the country according to Islamic norms; brotherly commitment toward all Muslims and unbridled support for the world oppressed. The main feature of this article is an internationalist viewpoint which is based on Article 4 of the draft Constitution which had stipulated that the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the establishment of monotheistic, spiritual and Islamic moral society as the basis for political, social and economic relations.

C) Article 9

 Safeguarding independence and territorial integrity of the country;

 Not differentiating freedom from independence;

 Not eliminating one side in favor of the other.

The main feature of this article which was based on Article 6 of the draft Constitution was showing reaction to the former regime and negating all kinds of dependence.

D) Article 11

 All Muslims are a single ummah;

 General policy of the government is based on coalition and unity among Muslim nations;

 Perseverant endeavors for creating political, economic and cultural unity in the Islamic world.

E) Article 43

 Assuring economic independence of the society;

 Preventing dominance of foreigners on the national economy;

 Self-sufficiency and walking out of dependence.

The main feature of this article is reaction to what happened under the former regime and it is based on Article 8 of the draft Constitution.

F) Article 67

 Commitment to the country’s independence and attention to it by deputies of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) according to their swearing letter. This article had no precedence in the draft Constitution and its main feature is emphasis on the reactionary independence.

G) Article 77

 All international treaties and contracts should be endorsed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly. It exactly conforms to Article 61 of the draft Constitution and its main feature is emphasis on showing reaction. Since it was generally believed that the former regime relied on perfunctory approval of its parliament for passing international treaties and contracts, it was decided that the situation must not happen again.

H) Article 78

 Banning any form of change in border lines, unless under strict conditions; This article even transcends the limits of its predecessor in the draft Constitution and was a reaction to some measures taken by the former regime which was under pressure from the United States.

I) Article 80

 Taking and granting domestic or foreign grant-in-aid should be endorsed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis). It is in line with Article 63 of the draft Constitution and indicated reaction to former regime’s acts.

J) Article 81

 Absolute ban on granting permit to foreigners to set up companies;

Article 60 of the draft Constitution had made such a permit conditional on the Majlis approval, but the Assembly of Experts totally banned it.

K) Article 82

 Banning recruitment of foreign experts by the government, unless under necessity after the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly; This article fully conforms to Article 62 of the draft Constitution and its main features are xenophobia and reaction to many concessions given to foreigners under the former Pahlavi regime.

L) Article 100

 Protecting territorial integrity by councils;

It totally conforms to Article 74 of the draft Constitution and its main characteristics are realism, patriotic viewpoint and fear of country’s disintegration through councils.

M) Article 110

 Granting the privilege of declaring war and peace as well as mobilizing forces to Vali Faqih (religious jurisprudent); This privilege had been granted to president by Article 95 of the draft Constitution, but it was granted to Supreme Leader by members of the Assembly of Experts who attached more importance to Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).

N) Article 121

 The president must swear to protect frontiers as well as political, economic and cultural independence of the country. It totally conforms to Article 82 of the draft Constitution and its main features include a patriotic realism in addition to independent seeking as a reaction to the past performance.

O) Article 143

 The Army is duty-bound to protect independence and territorial integrity of the country. This is fully conformant to Article 121 of the draft Constitution and its main feature is a realistic, rational attitude toward country.

P) Article 145

 No foreigner must be accepted to the Army and the police force. It conforms to Article 122 of the draft Constitution and its main feature is xenophobia and independence seeking in reaction to the measures taken by the former regime.

Q) Article 146

 Banning the establishment of foreign military bases in the country even for peaceful purposes; This is exactly conformant to Article 124 of the draft Constitution and its main features are xenophobia and extreme independence seeking in reaction to the measures taken by Pahlavi regime which had turned Iran into a US military base in the region.

R) Article 152

 Negating all kinds of hegemony and submissiveness;

 Protecting all-out independence and territorial integrity;

 Defending the rights of all Muslims;

 No commitment to hegemonic powers;

 Having peaceful ties with non-belligerent governments;

This article did not have precedence in the draft Constitution and was considered as manifestation of the foreign policy of the revolution which is both a reaction to the previous regime and realistic while seeking to support the Muslim Ummah and protect the country.

S) Article 153

 Banning contracts that will lead to the domination of foreigners on the country’s affairs; This article lacked precedence in the draft Constitution and its main features are extreme xenophobia and pure reaction to the full domination of foreigners on the country under the Pahlavi regime.

T) Article 154

 Man’s happiness in all societies is a goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran;

 Recognizing independence, freedom and a just rule as the right of people of the world;

 Full avoidance of all kinds of intervention in the internal affairs of other nations;

 Supporting the rightful struggles of the oppressed against the oppressors at any point in the world;

This article lacked precedence in the draft Constitution and its main feature is a transnational attitude along with the extreme and revolutionary internationalism.

U) Article 155

 Allowing the Iranian government to grant legal political asylum to nationals of other countries;

This article also lacked precedence in the draft Constitution and its main feature is making Iran a haven for those who struggle against colonialistic powers.


Essence of a Revolutionary, Islamic Constitution in the View of the Constitution Experts

The experts of Constitution believed that the modern world is striving to know what Muslim revolutionaries in Iran are up to. Therefore, they used such phrases as “the East and the West are looking forward to what we write”, “the world is waiting to read Islamic tenets as written in our Constitution”, and “this Constitution must delineate Islamic principles for the world.”(18)


A) Cosmopolitan attitude

According to this attitude, the Iranian revolution is not a revolution specific to Iran, but a model for all generations to come. They believe that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an international system of government and sought to write a constitution that would be a model for the whole world and they desired the message of the revolution to be conveyed to all corners of the world and form the universal government of Islam to rule the whole world.(19)  From the viewpoint of Islamic teachings, if an Islamic system is established in any part of the world, its responsibility will not be limited within the borders of that country and it will be committed toward all people, especially Muslims. Establishment of a great political entity in the world under the aegis of Islam is all but natural.Experts of Constitution believed that they must not simply write a merely Iranian constitution, but they must take happiness and prosperity of all mankind and emancipation of the oppressed into consideration. They maintained that the word ‘oppressed’ is not restricted to Muslims and based their support for the oppressed on the Koranic tenets. They contended that all the oppressed of the world should be emancipated before being invited to accept Islam.(20)  “If we bring things that we consider a remedy for the whole world into our Constitution, we would have observed two aspects. Firstly, we have clarified duty of the Iranian nation and, secondly, we would have offered the world with an international norm.”(21)  Experts of Constitution believed that even non-Muslim oppressed people must be supported and tyrants in any part of the world must be suppressed. They held that Iran must emancipate all the oppressed of the world and establish the rule of Allah across the globe.(22) Consensus of the experts on the two constitutional articles; that is 152 and 154 which are considered as the basis of Iran’s foreign policy, makes them believe that “this consensus is evidence to the strength of our revolution as well as the global nature of revolution and demonstrates that our revolution is not to be contained within borders.(23)


B) Ummah-favoring attitude

When elections for the Assembly of Experts were underway it was evident that due to the support of the Leader of the Islamic revolution, most of the seats will be taken by clerics because of their high popularity at that time and unbridled support of the Leader for them. The Islamic aspect of the revolutionary movement, leadership of a well-known source of emulation as well as religious and revolutionary structures, all directed the Constitution toward full domination of religious and Islamic aspects. The ummah-favoring attitude of jurisprudents formed the essence of the revolutionary and Islamic foreign policy because the ruling clerics sought support for the Islamic revolution not from the conventional international system, but from ummah-favoring unity of the Islamic countries. Therefore, experts of Constitution were of the opinion that all Muslims are responsible before the hunger of a single Muslim and that the Islamic Republic of Iran is part of a greater Islamic Ummah. They maintained that Iran can be viewed as a political unit of the Union of Islamic Republics and Vali Faqih (religious jurisprudent) is he who can restore the rights of the oppressed from oppressors without being limited to the restrictions of land and geography.(24) They even maintained that treaties and official relations with the Islamic countries should be written in Arabic. They said official letters of the government should be written in Arabic in order to help unity among Muslims and some experts even believed that official letters sent to Islamic and Arab countries must be written in Arabic to help promote the establishment of the Islamic Ummah.(25) To this end, global aspect of the Constitution was looked upon from an ummah-favoring angle.(26) “The first articles of the Constitution must be as follows:

Article 1- Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the government of the faithful.

Article 2- The Muslim Iranian nation is a unified unit according to the holy (the Koranic) verse ….

Article 3- The faithful throughout the world are members of a single ummah and enjoy a single religion, divine book, prophet and homeland as well as equal rights and duties.

Article 4- Iran is a unified political unit and an indispensable part of the Islamic Ummah.”(27)

At the same time, some experts believed that reconciliation must be made between independence and homeland on the one hand, and defending the lands of the Muslim Ummah on the other; so that, if an Islamic country is attacked, Islamic Iran must be aware of its duties and the Constitution must come up with a clear definition of the Islamic Ummah to make it easier for the Islamic government of Iran to know its duty.(28) In respect to banning the establishment of foreign military bases in Iran even for peaceful purposes, they asked why the Islamic Iran must not be able to, for example, grant military base to Palestinians? Despite the fact that the said article was approved they sought for a way to avoid considering Muslim brothers as foreigners.(29) When they discussed about crossing foreign military forces through Iran or their temporary stay in the country, they considered conditions for this. However, some experts believed that foreign Muslim forces should be allowed to cross Iran if they are to help the oppressed, revolutionaries or Muslim people because “we share their exigencies.” Despite those notions, this was not inserted in the Constitution(30) because they feared that the article will be misused by some major powers. The experts spend much time to demonstrate that which one of the the Koranic verses reflected the unity of the Muslim Ummah in a better way, but reached the final conclusion that as long as Islamic countries have not turned into a single ummah, the Iranian Constitution must stress borders and territorial integrity while respecting ummah-favoring commitments of the Iranian government.(31) Part of the revolutionary and Islamic foreign policy delineated by experts of the Constitution is heavily laden with ummah-favoring and unity-fostering tendencies for Islamic countries because pure religious teachings let Muslim jurisprudents to talk on foreign policy regardless of geographical limits.


C) Reactionary attitude

The triumphant revolutionaries were struggling against a government which had ignored the independence of the country, paved the way for domination of foreigners on the country’s affairs, had forgotten about self-sufficiency, had signed harmful international treaties without heeding the parliament and had granted many concessions to foreigners. Therefore, the experts should have thought of ways to prevent a restoration of that situation. Thus, a large part of ideas and measures taken by the experts of Constitution were of negative type to prevent the new system from rolling back to the old state of affairs. The experts believed that a text should be drawn up to put an end to the old system in all aspects while, on the other hand, closing doors to maneuvering by all foreign powers in Iran’s foreign policy.(32) The experts of Constitution believed that negating domination of foreigners and protecting independence, freedom and national unity as well as territorial integrity were both justified by the Koranic verses on the one hand, and were so ignored by the past regime that all measures should be taken to uphold them on the other. They believed independence to mean lack of dependence in all fields as well as detachment from long-standing domination of the West, especially the United States, on the country. The experts believed submissive dependence to be a prelude to loss of independence which included political, economic, cultural and social aspects, and maintained that when independence is lost in any of its aspects; that nation will be doomed.(33) Of course, they considered despotism and colonialism to be two sides of a coin which should be suppressed and annihilated simultaneously to assure all-out independence. “Basically when political, cultural, economic and military independence is not defended and realized in any society, talking about realizing freedoms will be wishful thinking. On the contrary, when despotism is to be established in a society, since it has no social basis, it will have to rely on foreign support.”(34)

Seeking self-sufficiency as prelude to comprehensive independence was a reaction to the extreme dependence of the Pahlavi regime which should have been wiped off from economic field in its entirety. Experts of the Constitution considered economic dependence to be the key to walking out of dependence and dependent development in a reaction-like manner. To this end, they put special emphasis on not employing foreign experts by putting an absolute ban on it; not granting any concession to foreigners thus closing the way to their domination over Iran; austerity on taking and granting loans because it will make the country dependent on other stats as well as approval of all international treaties and contracts by the Islamic Consultative Assembly.(35) They maintained that the more austerity is shown in this regard, the clearer will be the way of Iranians toward independence. Even in respect to having ties with the modern world for transfer of technical and scientific achievements, they believed that “we must first bolster our own capabilities before seeking help from foreigners. Then we must choose out of those sciences that will not lead to the dependence of the country in the light of Islam; thus negating dependence on both the West and East.(36) All that emphasis was a reaction to renovation theory put forth by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi which only encouraged consumerism of Iranians in all scientific and technical fields. The same reaction-like attitude is seen with regard to changing borders because they rejected compromise on Bahrain and considered granting some land to Iraq by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to be against patriotism, thus taking serious measures with regard to changing borders(37) making them well-nigh impossible. Article 153 of the Constitution which bans all kinds of contracts that would lead to the domination of foreigners was approved without any debate(38) and this showed that the experts of Constitution, in reaction of the domination of Westerners on all the country’s affairs, aimed to keep natural resources (mainly oil and gas) out of reach of domineering foreigners. In addition, specifying “other affairs of the country” will complete the inclusion.


D) Revolutionary attitude

Experts of Constitution are direct representatives of the revolution and, therefore, even their international views should smack of revolutionary tendencies. It is true that they stress non-interference in internal affairs of other countries; consider all-out support to be synonymous with interference in internal affairs of other countries; cast doubts on all-out support; and consider the concept of borders as being important; but all this is insufficient to bar them from opposing the design of the Iranian flag considering it to be non-Islamic as well as calling for relations with nations and not governments, stating that “any Muslim knows that all-out support for the oppressed and Muslims in any part of the world is his revolutionary mission.”(39) They believe that the superpowers should learn the language of the revolution(40) and based the revolutionary foreign policy on principles of friendship and rejection (of hostile government): “Friendship toward friends of God and people and animosity toward foes of God and people as well as bloodthirsty colonialists.”(41) However, they consider pure reliance on people as the main condition for drawing up a non-aligned foreign policy based on friendship and rejection.(42) Generally Speaking, hot debates broke out on Article clause 16 of Article 3 of Constitution and various positions were taken according to personal tastes: “We must first see what we are up to and what we are going to do before phrasing it. But we first make phrases … and then waste time and debate.”(43) The various phrases used clearly suggest that the experts of Constitution desired to change the international system-which was unknown to most of them-according to the idealistic stances of revolutionaries. Hence, the revolutionary approach is based on the following:

 Brotherly commitment toward Muslim nations, supporting all the oppressed of the world and the establishment of fair relations with all countries that are not hostile to Islam;

 Establishing fair relations with all nations if approved by the Islamic government;

 Applying rules of Islamic international law to foreign policy and brotherly commitment to all Muslim nations while offering complete support for all the oppressed of the world;

 Establishing bilateral ties with all nations and brotherly commitment toward all Muslim states while supporting all the oppressed of the world;

 Establishing fair ties with friendly governments, brotherly commitment toward Muslim nations and supporting the oppressed of the world;

 Endeavoring to establish the world peace, brotherly commitment toward Muslim nations and supporting all the oppressed of the world;

 Establishing fair, brotherly ties with Muslim nations and supporting all the oppressed of the world.(44)

All the above ideas demonstrate that the revolutionary attitude of the experts of Constitution to foreign policy of an Islamic government requires that the entire outside world should change to conform to that policy. Otherwise, foreign policy of a revolutionary, Islamic government will never give in to accepted international norms.


Future Foreign Policy Challenges with an Eye on the Past

The Islamic and revolutionary foreign policy which stems from the Islamic revolution and the Constitution, is currently facing challenges in practice and all its four main features; that is, Cosmopolitanism, seeking to support Muslim Ummah, reaction to past regime, and revolutionary aspects; have been made useless because everyday necessities and structural pressures exerted by a changing international system will automatically lead to problems and abate revolutionary morale. In confrontation with new aspects, revolutionary tendencies gradually fade and give way to idealism and more adjustment of the revolutionary attitude. “The strategic importance of Iran is not enough for determining domestic and foreign destiny of the country. Iranians must create balance among independence, freedom and Islam; accept international order; and try to act by its rules.”(45) Getting rid of ideology and attention to national interests, détente, promoting national interests through understanding;(46) relying on realities, as well as accepting international hegemony under leadership of a superpower(47) are all positions to be taken by a revolutionary foreign policy. Even from a historical viewpoint, prevalence of such discourses as idealistic confrontation and realistic compromise,(48) as well as expediency-oriented or realistic; value-oriented or idealistic; profit-oriented or pragmatic discourses(49) in foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran are signs of a radical change in a revolutionary foreign policy in favor of an ordinary, non-revolutionary foreign policy. The change in foreign policy of the Islamic Iran after the revolution is a result of adapting mental images of Iranian statesmen to international realities; that is, international system will impose realities on international players to make them adopt policies conformant to requirements of international system. Domestic requirements and international pressures, especially hegemonic position of the United States, revolution in information and communication technology as well as globalization have led to an amazing turnaround in Iran’s foreign policy.(50) The changes can be justified within the frame of new challenges as follows:

1. The concept of hegemony has been institutionalized and nobody can ignore it;

2. The idea of independence belongs to the second half of the 20th century, is a reaction to 19th century colonialism and has become a rarity as a result of globalization and the globalization culture;

3. Colonialism has changed its countenance and globalization has paved the way for foreign influence;

4. Territorial integrity has been overshadowed by the disappearance of boundaries of national sovereignty and has been abolished as a result of globalization and the concept of global village;

5. Brotherly commitment toward all Muslims needs material and cultural facilities on the one hand which are lacking due to religious differences while, on the other, supporting the oppressed despite unacceptable domestic situation will be illogical;

6. Endeavoring to realize the Islamic unity and establish the Muslim Ummah is a failed effort due to the religious rejection of Iran by most Muslims of the world. Meanwhile, its heavy material and cultural preliminaries have not been prepared;

7. The issue of global trade has led to the heavy economic dependence of countries on one another and its necessities seem to be so strong as to make the concept of self-sufficiency futile and costly. A knowledge-based economy is at odds with leftist economic ideas of Iran which belong to the 1950s to 1970s and has made them worthless.

8. Pressures resulting from the current hegemonic international system have left no room for national parliaments to oppose approval of international treaties and agreements. Meanwhile, not approving them will lead to isolation at international level;

9. Changing borders is sometimes so tightly linked to higher economic interests that sometime countries will have to accept it in line with changing conditions. Otherwise, other countries will do what they want to do and reap its benefits;

10. Taking loans from financial markets and monetary funds as well as international banks is necessary for economic growth and no country can wait for time-consuming discussions at national parliaments;

11. Banning granting concessions to foreign nationals is, in many occasions, harmful to the country and makes it lag behind its neighbors because such concessions will lead to influx of international investments into the country to pave the way for development;

12. Mutual need of countries to the knowledge of manpower at an age of knowledge-based economy has made ban on the employment of foreign nationals to look absurd;

13. Establishment of foreign military bases has, on many occasions, compromised national security of a powerful country while bolstering security of a weak state. We can no longer look upon this issue from a Cold War viewpoint;

14. Non-alignment has no meaning because it is considered a Third World idea which belongs to the era of Cold War;

15. Defending the rights of all Muslims needs many forces and facilities. Meanwhile one should be cautious not to be incriminated with supporting terrorism or interfering in internal affairs of other countries. Preventing such accusations is very difficult and sometimes impossible;

16. The World Trade Organization signs obligatory contracts with member countries. on the one hand, membership in it will reveal all economic affairs of the country to others while on the other, remaining aloof will lead to full isolation in a globalized trade system;

17. Globalization and Americanization have downplayed the importance of cultural ideas and led to cultural relativity which will result in domination of the superior culture which enjoys all material and immaterial resources, over the weak side of the conflict;

18. Supporting rightful struggles of the oppressed against the oppressors needs facilities and power as well as support from hegemonic world system.

19. Striving to impose one’s viewpoints on other countries and promoting the Muslim Ummah requires many facilities and credit with other countries. Otherwise, any country with the said claims will lose face. Foreign policy has four major tasks, which include:

A. Recognizing international environment on the basis of an understanding of global events;

B. Drawing up a large-scale plan for the realization of national interests and adopting it as a national strategy;

C. Formulating operational plans for the realization of the national strategy which are known as executive techniques;

D. Organizing and guiding forces for the realization of operational plans which is called diplomacy.(51)



What has been mentioned in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran clearly suggested that the issues, to which the revolutionary elements tried to be loyal, could be turned into a working foreign policy. However, Iranian revolutionaries erred on the side of understanding global developments and tried to assess them according to their own personal tastes. Therefore, the resultant foreign policy was reduced to the level of ‘foreign relations’. Since the Pahlavi regime had accepted the hegemonic international system with the dominant role of the United States and despite claims by revolutionaries that it pursued to promote dependent development of the country due to conformity to international world order it had gained many benefits under the bipolar system of the Cold War era. After the victory of the Islamic revolution, the revolutionaries attempted to make the past relations null and void.


Article No. Article No. in draft Total votes Positive Negative Abstention Percent of positive votes Page



1. Houshang Amirahmadi & Manouchehr Parvin, Iran after the Revolution, Trans. Ali Morshedizad, Tehran: Center for Re-identification of Islam and Iran, 2003, pp. 42- 43 ; also, Mahmoud Sariolghalam, “The Nature of the Contemporary International System,” Foreign Policy Journal (Farsi), Vol. 4, No. 4, Winter 1991, pp. 443-446.

2. Samith K. Farsoun and Mehrdad Mashayekhi, Political Culture in the Islamic Republic, Trans. Masoumeh Khaleghi, Tehran: Center for Re-identification of Islam and Iran, 2000, p. 125.

3.Ibid., pp. 129-134.

4. Amirahmadi & Parvin, op. cit., p. 113.

5.Ibid., p. 242.

6. John Esposito, Islamic Revolution and its Global Repercussion, Trans. Mohsen Modir Shanehchi, Tehran: Center for Re-identification of Islam and Iran, 2003, p. 49.

7. Ibid., p. 55.

8. John Furan, Theorizing Revolutions, Trans. Farhang Ershad, Tehran: Nei Publications, 2003, pp. 305-307.

9. Masoud Eslami, “Position and Status of Small Countries in International System,” Foreign Policy Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4, Winter 1991, p. 551.

10. Esposito, op. cit., p. 47.

11. Ibid., p. 59.

12. Rouhollah Ramezani, An Analytical Frame to Study Foreign Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Trans. Alireza Tayyeb, Tehran: Nei Publications, 2001, pp. 47-50.

13. Bijan Izadi, An Introduction to the Foreign Policy of Iran, Qom: Office of the Islamic Propagation, 1998, pp. 135-145.

14. Manouchehr Mohammadi, Foreign Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran: Principles and Problems, Tehran: Dadgostar Press, 1998, pp. 30-31.

15. Esposito, op. cit., p. 47.

16. Mohammadi, op. cit., pp. 47-48.

17.Ibid., p. 48.

18. Islamic Consultative Assembly, General Department of Cultural Affairs and Public Relations, Procès-verbal of Parliament Debates during Final Review of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Tehran: Islamic Consultative Assembly, 1985, pp. 26, 28, 222, 223.

19. Ibid., pp. 48, 184, 338, 450,461, 770.

20.Ibid., pp. 49, 50, 300, 301, 304, 1445.

21. Ibid., p. 1449.

22. Ibid., pp. 236, 300, 301, 505.

23. Ibid., pp. 1520, 1521.

24. Ibid., pp. 58, 200, 362.

25. Ibid., pp. 579, 584, 592, 593.

26. Ibid., pp. 74, 453, 1436.

27. Ibid., p. 76.

28. Ibid., pp. 1431-1436.

29. Ibid., p. 1357.

30. Ibid., pp. 1387-1392.

31. Ibid., pp. 452, 454, 1703.

32. Ibid., pp. 51, 412.

33. Ibid., pp. 211, 235, 421, 422, 427, 428, 430, 431, 432.

34. Ibid., p. 426.

35. Ibid., pp. 298, 299, 801, 862, 872, 873, 874, 877, 893, 1490-1492, 1496, 1497, 1800.

36. Ibid., pp. 209, 213, 216, 230, 247.

37. Ibid., pp. 339, 1703, 1706.

38. Ibid., p. 1523.

39. Ibid., pp. 300, 303, 451, 601, 602, 1473, 1701.

40. Ibid., p. 1610.

41. Ibid., p.50

42. Ibid., p. 306, 361, 362.

43. Ibid., pp. 306.

44. Ibid., pp.305,306

45. Ramezani, op. cit., p. 166.

46. Alireza Azghandi, The Foreing Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran: Ghomes, 2002, p. 30.

47. Ramezani,op. cit., pp. 81-105.

48. Ibid., pp. 59-74.

49. Azghandi, op. cit., pp. 9-21.

50. Azghandi, op. cit., pp. 60-72; also Seyed Mohammad Kazam Sajjadpour, Iran’s Foreign Policy: Discourse on Theoretical and Practical Domains, Tehran: IPIS, 2002, pp. 22-25.

51. Mohammad Javad Larijani, Lessons of Foreign Policy, Theran: Meshkat, 1998, pp. 12-13.



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