Reflections on Iran’s Foreign Policy: Spiritual Pragmatism



The present essay argues that Iran’s foreign policy since the 1979 Revolution has pursued an overall aspirational paradigm which I call “spiritual pragmatic”, embodying two seemingly conflicting elements – spirituality and pragmatism. It is also suggested that this hybrid approach to foreign policy is nothing new to Iran; rather, in fact, it dates as far back as ancient pre-Islamic Persia, and more recently, since the reign of the Safavids in the 16th century. The crux of the argument here is to try to dispel the rather cliché images of the post-revolutionary Iranian foreign policy as either “irrational”, “paranoid” or something of that sort or order.; The essay will try to trace the examples of the suggested overall approach since the very early days of the Revolution, under the late Ayatollah Khomeini, and subsequently under Ayatollah Khamenei, and during various administrations all through the past three decades. To elucidate the discussion, two specific issues – examples – have been given particular emphasis – the nuclear dossier and the Iran-US relations. The latter, even if strained thus far and with somewhat bleak prospects currently, will have to undergo positive, mutually beneficial change in the future, which as argued in the paper, will have to move beyond misperceptions and more importantly, will require recognition on the US part of Iran’s genuine, long-term national concerns and sensitivities. The essay also touches, in very broad terms, on the still unfolding situation in Iran and addresses the requirements for smooth transformation in its governance in the future.; The essay has been authored with the hope of helping to create a better understanding of Iran’s foreign policymaking - in the West in general and the in United States in particular.