Iran – Offensive Realist


After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has become aggressive towards her neighbours, Israel and the US. The Internation of the new Islamic government in Tehran was a transfer of the Islamic revolution across the Middle East and through this becoming the regional leader. This project failed for one simple reason: Iran is Shia in the predominantly Sunni region.

War with Iraq was the trigger to nationalism in Iran, which replaced or filed religious fervour in Iran. The war was a logical sequel of Iran’s failed attempt to seize the power in the Middle East, especially mostly Shia Iraq, with the Sunni government. The Islamic revolution and its transfer was not Iran’s only attempt to get her influence over Iraq: since the US invasion in Iraq, Iran actively tries to bolster her positions. She was willing to help new, mainly Shia Iraqi government and paramilitary forces to wage war against Sunni insurgencies and then ISIL.

Sectarian conflicts was a breeding ground for Iran’s ambitious projects. During the so-called Arab Spring Iran actively supported Shia forces to toppled Sunni governments Yemen and Bahrain, though the latter was unsuccessful. Different gamble was played elsewhere: Iran consistently securing Al-Assad’s positions in Syria, where Iran military is present. Same is happening in Hezbollah’s in Lebanon. But why Iran was tried and still actively trying to gain as much influence as it gets it?

Before the US invasion in Iraq, Iran, which aspired to become a regional power, aware that she was surrounded by hostile governments. All of them was either Sunni or non-friendly Shia (Azerbaijan). All of them had one in common – hatred towards Iran. But after the fall of Iran’s nemesis – Iraqi Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, Shia government in Iran saw fertile ground to act.

Iran’s first objective was to secure Iraq as a friendly country. They successfully fulfiled it. Perspectives of the US withdrawal from their country and resurgent of the Sunni insurgency in the western provinces and then ISIL, prompt the Iraqi government to deepen existing ties with her former enemy – Iran.

The second objective was Lebanon. In there Hezbollah which has civil and military branches operates as an anti-Israel, pro-Iranian political and military movement. With the active investment of Iran, Hezbollah gradually flourished and gained tangible ground. After the war with Israel in 2006, the prestige of Hezbollah grew in the islamic world, as well as Iran’s willingness to help them. But why Hezbollah? The organization mainly contains and represents the Shia from Lebanon. Therefore it is a natural ally of Iran. But it is not enough. Hezbollah has an aggressive stance against the US, Israel and the regional Sunni powers which cooperate to the West and Israel. All of those stances, not just a shared by Iran but it was Iran who staunchly promoted them after the year of 1979. Through them, Iran can mobilize people around the region which in the name of religious and political radicalization and discontent can start to fight against their governments, which secretly or openly cooperates to Israel and the West. Divide and Conquer – the Supposed motto of Iran’s foreign policies. This makes Iran a rogue state.

The third objective was to cut direct Pro-Iranian, Shia trail toward the Mediterranean sea. In 2018 Iran successfully achieve her objective. Any government from Iran to the west, before the mediterranean sea, is predominantly Shia or ruled by pro-Iranian governments. Now, Iran’s military can directly use land-road to connect Hezbollah in Lebanon and impose threats to Israel.

The fourth objective is complicated but achievable: Iran tries to further divide the Sunni world and focus their attention on domestic issues or neighbouring countries while Iran gradually strengthens her positions. The Saudi led war in Yemen and the mobilization of the Shia population in eastern Saudi Arabia near the economically profitable strain of Hormuz, are perfect baits which help Iran to act without suspension.

But again, why is Iran willing to spend so many resources to topple the regional order? The answer lies within the International relation’s theory of Neorealism. According to it, the world is in constant anarchy, where the war always lies on horizons. If you, as a country want to secure your position then you should secure your interests and act, even in aggressively, if necessary.

Last seven decades peace in international relations keep because of the active role of US and its aspiration to secure post-world war order. Since the dissolution of USSR, the US has been the only superpower in the world. This means that she should behave like a policeman to maintain stable growth of democracies. Beyond that, any superpower should control which regional power grow and avoid to accumulate too much power for any country with aggressive intention. Iran is an alike country. Her ambitions to become regional power definitely contradicts the US-led order. This is why the US sees Iran as one of the main security threat for not just her international supremacy, but also achievable stability and balance of power in the Middle East.

Russia intensively and also Turkey reluctantly, are willing to cooperate with Iran. That is because they also aspire to change the regional or even world orders. If Iran succeeds the US is no longer keep the power to secure even fragile peace in the Middle East, therefore redistribution of power is going to be palpable. Iran, as well as Russia and Turkey, are offensive realists who gradually changing the dynamics of the east and therefore the world. This is the main reason why the issue of Iran never got rid of from the subject of US foreign policy.

Giorgi Koberidze
Senior Fellow

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