Iran’s Permanent Quest for Regional Power Status
Iran has been searching for regional power status in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, independent of regime type, since the 1970s. During the era of the last Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the first decade of the Islamic Republic, diplomacy was pursued through a proactive policy and use of hard power tools, including direct intervention in neighboring countries. Later on, soft power became more frequently used. This chapter details the strategies used by Iran to achieve status in the region and to some extent in the world at large. It argues that systemic factors have been the primary influence on Iran’s success or lack of such in achieving status. It concludes that Iran has indeed been a successful “middle power” both in pre-revolutionary times (when it was an ally of the USA as well as the Gulf monarchies) and in much of the revolutionary period when it managed to extend its “moral” and religious influence beyond its natural Gulf sphere of influence. More recently, however, post the Arab Spring, it has suffered setbacks in Iraq, Syria, and Bahrain, among other countries, in addition to which its nuclear ambitions have heightened regional distrust. Ironically, its negotiation of a nuclear agreement with the great powers and the United Nations in 2015 has not improved Iran’s regional status. On the contrary, the reaction from regional actors has been suspicion of the nuclear deal, and a renewed perception of threat emanating from Iran.
- Gulf Studies [32 items ]