Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era

Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era

Daniel Byman
Shahram Chubin
Anoushiravan Ehteshami
Jerrold Green
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 125
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mr1320osd
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  • Book Info
    Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era
    Book Description:

    Religion, nationalism, ethnicity, economics, and geopolitics all are important in explaining Iran's goals and tactics in its relationship with the outside world, as are the agendas of key security institutions and the ambitions of their leaders. This report assesses Iran's security policy in light of these factors. It examines broad drivers of Iran's security policy, describes important security institutions, explores decisionmaking, and reviews Iran's relations with key countries. The authors conclude that Iraq is widely recognized as the leading threat to Iran's Islamic regime and Afghanistan is seen as an emerging threat. In contrast, Iran has solid, if not necessarily warm, relations with Syria and established working ties to Pakistan and Russia. Iran's policies toward its neighbors are increasingly prudent: It is trying to calm regional tension and end its isolation, although its policies toward Israel and the United States are often an exception to this policy. Iran's security forces, particularly the regular military, are often voices of restraint, preferring shows of force to overactive confrontations. Finally, Iran's security forces generally respect and follow the wishes of Iran's civilian leadership; conducting rogue operations is rare to nonexistent.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-3244-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. TABLES
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. SUMMARY
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. ACRONYMS
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    Iranian security policy defies simple explanation. Religion, nationalism, ethnicity, economics, and geopolitics all are important factors influencing Iran’s goals and tactics in its relationship with the outside world. So too are the agendas of key security institutions and the ambitions of their leaders. If anything, Iran’s foreign policy is becoming more complex. The Islamic Republic, long a source of instability in the Middle East, is itself under severe pressure to change.

    Iran’s politics and even basic structure of government are in flux. The 1997 election of Mohammed Khatami as president triggered a struggle between reformers and revolutionaries that has changed...

  9. Chapter Two FUNDAMENTAL SOURCES OF IRANIAN FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICIES
    (pp. 7-20)

    Certain characteristics of the Islamic Republic drive its foreign policy, affecting both its overall objectives and the manner in which it pursues them. Twenty years after the Islamic revolution, Islam remains the characteristic that receives the most attention, with Persian nationalism often cited as a competing source of Iran’s inspiration. While Islam and nationalism are important drivers, their importance has diminished, and evolved, as Iran’s revolutionary enthusiasm has given over to the pragmatic concerns that all states must take into account. Geopolitics has reasserted its importance, and economics has grown from a foreign policy irrelevance to a leading factor. Ethnicity...

  10. Chapter Three SECURITY DECISIONMAKING IN IRAN
    (pp. 21-30)

    The decisionmaking process in Iran can be, and often is, bewildering in its complexity. The large number of institutions, the important roles of nongovernment actors, overlapping institutional structures, the importance of personal ties, and lack of a clear division of labor among security ministries often lead to conflicting policies and uncertain implementation.

    Although planning for Iran’s national security is the constitutional task of theArteshand the mandate of Iran’s other security organizations, Iran does not have a single national security approach, or program of action. Policy outcomes are usually products of compromises reached by the security community itself and...

  11. Chapter Four MAJOR SECURITY INSTITUTIONS AND THEIR COMPOSITION
    (pp. 31-44)

    Myriad individuals, institutions, and organizations play important foreign policy roles in Iran. For issues of security policy—the focus of this report—several organizations are particularly important, including the intelligence services, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the paramilitary militia known as theBasij, and the regular armed forces, orArtesh.

    Recognizing the role of the Iranian armed forces and security services is critical to understanding Iran’s security policy. These institutions will respond to the challenges of the 21st century, be it the return of Iraq as a major regional power, a powerful Turkish-Israeli axis, possible domestic turmoil in...

  12. Chapter Five THE MILITARY AND IRANIAN SOCIETY
    (pp. 45-52)

    Iran’s military plays an important role in Iranian society. In 1925, leaders from Iran’s military deposed the Qajar dynasty, establishing the regime of Reza Shah. Military leaders also played an instrumental role in the 1953 coup against Mosaddeq. (However, the Islamic Republic deliberately tries to guard against this degree of military influence.) Religious leaders (like the Shah before them) try to employ the military to strengthen their positions and ensure their control over Iranian society. Thus, the military’s role in security cannot be separated from its overall role in Iran’s domestic politics.

    This chapter focuses on two issues. It first...

  13. Chapter Six IMPACT ON FOREIGN POLICY
    (pp. 53-98)

    Iran’s foreign policy is too complex for simple description and prediction. However, the fundamental sources and security institutions described earlier shape both its direction and its application. The direction of Iran’s foreign policy is hardly consistent: At times, the revolutionary imperative dominates; at other times, concerns over ethnic fragmentation or economic relations predominate. Nevertheless, patterns do emerge that can be described in some detail.

    The armed forces and intelligence services will play an essential role in many of these decisions, particularly with regard to how Iran can best meet its security challenges. Although these institutions often play, at most, a...

  14. Chapter Seven IMPLICATIONS
    (pp. 99-104)

    The foregoing discussion suggests that Iran’s security strategy stems from a complicated mix of strategic, domestic, and institutional sources. Any assessment of how Iran will respond in a crisis must determine not only the particulars, but also the current balance of influence among Tehran’s decisionmakers.

    Several observations of Iran’s security policy can be derived.

    A distinction is often drawn among internal security, the preservation of the revolution, and Iran’s broad foreign policy aims. Closer examination, however, reveals this distinction is at best blurry and at worst dangerously misleading. All of Iran’s major policy decisions—how to ensure security against Iraq,...

  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 105-112)
  16. ABOUT THE AUTHORS
    (pp. 113-114)