ABSTRACT

Chapter 4 is about one of the most complex regional actors, Iran, and its foreign policy. Iran’s foreign policy towards the region has always been interesting and troubled. Being the only major Shia-dominated country and home to two major non-Arab ethnicities (Persian and Turkish) in the region, Iran is both an insider and outsider to the region. Iran’s Islamic revolution and its revolutionary ideas have dominated its foreign policy since 1979. Iran presents itself as the only legitimate alternative to the ‘corrupted Muslim regimes’ in the region. Since the Islamic revolution Iran re-conceptualized its foreign policy appeal as ‘protector of the oppressed Muslim people’ in the region and an alternative to the corruption and repression of Arab regimes, such as Saudi Arabia’s. Iran presents itself as a truly original blend of Islamism, twelve imams’ tradition, republicanism, and democracy. Iran’s new foreign policy roles vis-à-vis the MENA region include ‘defender of faith,’ ‘anti-American/anti-imperialist agent,’ ‘internal development,’ ‘liberation supporter,’ ‘example.’ Iran’s support for other democracy movements except for the Syrian opposition has attracted criticism from both domestic and international circles that caused role conflict and role contestation.