- JAPAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- 国際政治 (ISSN:04542215)
- vol.2012, no.167, pp.167_42-56, 2012-01-30 (Released:2013-09-21)
Why has Iran been refusing to comply with the binding U.N. Security Council resolutions and to halt its uranium enrichment program? Why has the apparent cost that it incurs by defying the international community not deterred Iran from furthering its nuclear program? Why has postrevolutionary Iran been opposing the U.S.-led peace processes between Israel and the Palestinians and made it a rule to counter any U.S. influence in the region?In this article, I posit that postrevolutionary Iran's principled opposition to the U.S. is not just rhetoric or an ideologically-driven self-image, but that it may well be considered its self-constructed strategic cultural proclivity. While mindful not to fall into the trap of essentialist or cultural determinist arguments, I find the concept of strategic culture as a context useful. Following scholars such as Stuart Poore, I posit that decision makers perceive and interpret their strategic environment culturally, while what may be considered their constituted strategic culture give meaning to material factors.As a first step toward identifying postrevolutionary Iran's strategic culture, I examine the views of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the paramount leader of the Islamic revolutionary movement and the first head of the postrevolutionary Islamist state, as regards contemporary international relations and the roles of the superpowers therein. Convinced that part of the mission of the Islamic revelation was about providing salvation against oppression and fighting injustice, Khomeini went on to construct postrevolutionary Iran's dominant strategic discourse anchored in the perceived obligation to avoid and counter earthly hegemony or domination. Khomeini preached that Iran must resist the “satanic” moves of the both superpowers and find only sanctuary under the banner of Islam. While finding it logical and necessary to build and maintain good neighborly and mutually respectful relations among states, Khomeini ruled out submitting to any international hegemon.Iran in its post-Khomeini period continued to maintain its counterhegemonic stance. Ayatollah Khamenei, the successor to Khomeini as the head of the Islamic state of Iran, cultivated its counter-hegemonic strategic culture in part to secure his own authority and build his power base. The strategic alliance constructed between Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has proved to perpetuate post-Khomeini-era Iran's anti-American strategic culture.In conclusion, I argue that Iran may be best regarded as a counterhegemon, not an aspiring hegemon and that the kind of power that postrevolutionary Iran has found necessary to possess is not the power for hegemony and domination, but the power to resist and persevere. This proclivity helps explain why Iran has continued its nuclear program despite the cost it incurs by defying the U.N. Security Council resolutions. It also helps explain why it has maintained its principled anti-U.S. stance for the last three decades. It does not, however, seem logical to conclude that Iran's apparent pursuit of the deterrent capabilities through its nuclear or other programs is directly influenced by its counter-hegemonic strategic culture. The argument, nonetheless, supports a view that Iran's strategic posture is almost exclusively defensive and that its apparent pursuit of the means of deterrence should not necessarily be considered posing a threat to the region or the international community.