Authors: Kayhan Barzegar
Winter 2008
Middle East Policy

What are the roots and aims of Iran's foreign policy in post-invasion Iraq? Many scholars attribute Iran's policies to a desire to achieve national and regional interests, perceiving this policy to be mainly offensive and ideological. I argue instead that the roots and aims of Iran's foreign policy are defensive, mainly pragmatic, and based on state-oriented and strategic issues. As to Iran-U.S. relations in the new Iraq, the main controversy involves different perceptions of the security challenges; actions that Washington considers to be necessary for protecting the U.S. interests in post-invasion Iraq are regarded by Tehran as undermining Iran's security and national interests. The new political-security developments in post-invasion Iraq have led Iran to seek a friendly, stable, secure and prosperous neighbor. However, the Bush administration's regional policy — largely focused on defining Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, building regional alliances against Iran, and establishing long-term military bases next to Iran's borders — has compelled Iran to oppose it.

I argue that historical views and stateoriented and strategic issues all have significant effects on Iran's foreign policy in post-invasion Iraq. I then explain that the nature of cultural and political-security characteristics of Iran's sources of power as well as the demands of the factors and principles involved in Iran-Iraq relations will inevitably force Iran to be pragmatic in its policy toward the new Iraq; ideology is only one source of Iran's power. Lastly, I argue that Iran's foreign policy is based on achieving strategic aims. It is the result of a combination of considerations aimed at producing both security and opportunities. The birth of a new Iraq demands a revision of the current regional political-security architecture, mainly based on "balance of power." By shifting Iraq to a friendly state, Iran desires to discard the traditional designation of Iraq as Iran's counterbalance in the Persian Gulf and to turn the new relations into a "balance of interests." The main conflict in Iranian-U.S. relations in post-invasion Iraq is based on redefining Iraq's political-security structure. Understanding the roots of Iran's foreign policy has important implications for the United States and regional countries that are currently concerned about Iran's role and aims in Iraq.

Barzegar, Kayhan. "Iran's Foreign Policy in Post-invasion Iraq." Middle East Policy XV, no. 4 (Winter 2008): 47-58.