Religion Impact on Iran’s Foreign Policy

May 16, 2018 Writing Hints

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the largest countries of Central Asia and the Middle East, which has significant energy resources lying on the world oil trade routes, which owns significant military potential across the region. It is the country that claims to be the leader in the region and in the world. Despite the difficulties experienced these days, Iran is a very promising target for an investment and economic partner, strategically important in terms of geopolitical potential.

For historical science considering the development of countries globally, the process of development of each country separately is very important. The history of Iran is a significant interest in the history of the country in terms of historical science, which can be traced to a time of extraordinary strengthening of the state, as well as the rise of economic life, the flourishing of science and culture. However, there were destructive and bloody wars in Iran, a long-term dominance in its territory by foreign conquerors, along with long stagnation in the economy, culture, science and other aspects of society.


Iran was a mighty empire in the past, which reached heights of world culture and civilization. The country was in social and economic stagnation in 19th-early 20th centuries. New aspects related to the ability to overcome the age-old backwardness of the country have been added to Iran's established notions and even its transition into the category of developed countries since the second half of the 20th century. At the same time, negative effects in the economic, political and social life of the country had begun to show that impeded the development of Iran. It was the period when the events that had a tremendous impact on the further development of country took place in Iran.

The features of the socio-economic and political development of the Muslim East, the legacy of the colonial and semi-colonial past along with many unresolved domestic and international problems have caused a significant increase in the influence of Islam in these countries, an appeal to the Islamic spiritual values, legal regulations and political doctrines in the search for the alternatives of Western and other models of social development. In recent decades, the main trends of political, socio-economic and cultural development of the Muslim world have been folded on the basis of ideological and political principles, as well as moral criteria of Islam world. All this has had the major positive impact on contemporary international relations. The growing role of Islam as a global policy-forming factor and the special place of the Islamic Republic of Iran under the Khomeini regime and its impact on Iran's current foreign policy determine the relevance of the research paper.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran is a country based on the ideology of Islamic norms. Since its inception, Islam has been the country with national and social religion. However, Iran is an Islamic state but not just an Islamic country these days. Therefore, the processes taking place in Iran, its attitude to the outside world cause great interest not only from the country's neighbouring and the Islamic countries but also the entire world community. Specific experience of creating a theocratic state in Iran, its ambiguous ideological and spiritual influence on the Muslim world, the political impact on the situation in neighbouring countries and regions, a special role in international relations, in general, is a phenomenon of the present. Naturally, Iran is the country that deserves to be the object of attention of politicians, historians and the processes taking place in it must have a proper scientific study. The Iranian experience of the creation of the country is being analysed in the philosophical and historical perspective through the research of the foundations and specificity of a pivotal moment ideology of the Islamic Revolution, as well as the political orientation of the current regime established in Iran. In this regard, it is important to define the substance of Islamic regime in Iran, analyse various factors of complex and controversial social and political development of the Islamic regime in the context of the relationship between religion and politics, including those phenomena that affected the situation in the country in the past.

Great impact on the formation of Iran's foreign policy had Khomeini's philosophy. It was the person who was denied the right to lecture on Islamic Philosophy and the Fiqh in Qom for opposition demonstration in 1935. However, the Shiite religion approves underground teaching activities in which Khomeini was engaged. In 1929, Khomeini married the daughter of Ayatollah Sagafi from the town of Shahr-e-Rey Khadija Sagafi and left with her until the end of his days. Together with Khadija Ayatollah, he moved to Qom and organised a personal madrasah, which quickly gathered a circle of students devoted to Khomeini. An underground teaching activity along with the writing of 40 theological and political treatises enhanced the Khomeini's credibility in the circles of the opposition of the clergy. Additionally, Khomeini had extensive international contacts with various Muslim organisations. Thus, he met the Muslim brothers after the completion of the Hajj in Najaf in 1937. The brothers preached the idea of pan-Islamism, which was the idea of the construction of a world Caliphate. During the Arab-Israeli conflict over Israel's independence, Khomeini created a financial fund from which he assisted Chammas and Fatah. At the same time, he treated quite negatively the rest of the Muslim parties of the conflict.

Khomeini received the title of Ayatollah in the middle of 1950s. Just after the start of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's reforms, he was actively involved in opposition activities. In 1962, Khomeini led a strike of the local clergy against the project of secular government. In 1963, Khomeini urged to boycott a national referendum on the reforms called White Revolution, as he claimed that it did not meet the Islamic standards and Iranian Constitution. The reason for his negative position was agrarian reform, which was carried out during the secularization of waqf lands. The Majlis could not protect clergy because the Shah dispersed it. Therefore, it was the Shah's arbitrary decision to begin large-scale reforms, which, of course, was not in compliance to the Constitution.

Mass demonstrations for the abolition of the referendum began in the country. However, the referendum was still held on January 26, 1963. Khomeini was arrested and prisoned for 2 months that day. However, he issued a manifesto immediately after he was released from prison. The White Revolution was called black in the manifesto. Additionally, Khomeini called for the overthrow of the Shah's regime in it. In mid-March 1963, Khomeini called on Muslims not to celebrate Nowruz, which was New Year according to the lunar calendar. The reason was that it was a pagan holiday. Indeed, the celebration of Nowruz has a very ancient tradition, dating back to the Achaemenid area, if not earlier. Instead of it, Khomeini called out into the streets and take part in the protests. Shah ordered to disperse the demonstration. On March 22, 1963, there was a raid of Savak agents at a madrasah in Qom where Khomeini gave lessons, which was illegal at that time. As a result, one of the students was killed. In response, Khomeini issued a statement on April 2, 1963, called Love the Shah is pandering to plunder the people. He called the Shah an Israel agent in this statement. Khomeini declared that he was ready to die, but would never accept the Shah's regime until he was alive. Shah painfully took the charge of collaboration with Israel. Iran and Turkey were the only Muslim countries at that time, which had diplomatic relations with Israel. It was a requirement of the USA and the UK to collaborate with Israel that agreed to help Iran in the modernization of the economy.

On June 3, 1963, Khomeini condemned again the policy of the Shah and demanded to change the government's course in the Fevziye madrasah in Qom on Friday sermon. Two days later, on June 5, 1963, Khomeini was arrested and placed under home arrest in Tehran. Police found that it was necessary to wrest Khomeini from the culture medium of the Muslim fanatics of Qom, which was the city where Domullo and clergy formed a significant part of the population. Mass disorders that began after the Khomeini's arrest were brutally suppressed by the police. About 400 people were killed there. In August 1963, Khomeini was released, but he was again arrested and deported to Turkey in October 1964. That time, he condemned the law on the special status of the US citizens in Iran. It was due to the massive influx of American specialists in Iran who were pilots, oil workers, architects, doctors, etc. The Americans, with their impudence, did not want to obey the rules of Islamic countries. They went in shorts, did not grow beards, consumed alcohol in the street, while the American women did not wear a scarf, etc. All this led to endless problems with the police and clergy. A special status stipulated the right for the Americans not to abide by Islamic standards. Khomeini called the law an act of surrender.

Khomeini moved from Turkey to the holy city of Najaf in Iraq Shiites. Saddam Hussein's regime sought to use Iraqi Shiites against Iran because the relations between the two countries had been strained due to disputed territories, which took place in the oil fields. In 1978, Khomeini moved to Paris, where he continued to struggle against the Shah's regime. He called for the creation of the Shiite theocracy in Iran. Khomeini fiercely hated the United States and the Soviet Union. He accused the US in economic neo-colonialism and corruption of the Iranian people, while the Soviet Union was accused in atheism and aggressive intentions toward Iran. Khomeini wrote his most significant book called Islamic state when he was in migration. It was a program for the creation of an Islamic country. Khomeini's speeches and articles were transferred to Iran smuggling in the form of books, but mainly in the form of audio cassettes. This was due to the fact that illiterate and semi-illiterate people were the social basis of the Islamic Revolution. The cassettes were listened in the mosques.

In 1971, the 2500th anniversary of the Persian monarchy was celebrated with large luxury in the archaeological complex of Persepolis. The resentment of the people was due to the fact that the festival was attended by some foreigners, although a devout Muslim would not attend the pagan festival. In addition, there was a drought that time and farmers were risked of hunger in Sistan, Baluchistan and Farsi. Shah nobles and foreigners were absorbing tons of champagne and caviar on holidays during that period. This was considered an extra proof of Shah's apostasy.

In 1973, the stream of money began to arrive to the country as a result of the jump on oil prices because of the Six Day War. Inflation arose when the economy and industry of the country could not cover greatly increased money supply with its production. Shah, taking advantage of the oil boom, invited skilled professionals across Europe, the US, Australia and Canada into the country. They were helicopter pilots, oil workers, civil engineers and others. Naturally, they continued to live their own life, which they used to, like drinking alcohol. They also were openly engaged in communication with local women, etc. Naturally, this also produced a negative impression on the advocates of religious morality.

As in any country, there was a high level of corruption in the state apparatus during oil boom. National traditions of Iran were also imposed there. For example, baksheesh was considered not a bribe but a manifestation of gratitude and respect. In 1976, the Shah tried to change the traditional Hijra calendar on Zoroastrian with a chronology of the accession to the throne of Cyrus the Great. However, I caused such outrage of people that he was soon forced to abandon the reforms. Moreover, this calendar was difficult to use at home and forced people to learn new names of days and months, constantly recalculate it to the European dates, as the European calendar also had already been quite widespread in Iran.

The concept of ideal Shiite state in the days of no hidden Imam was developed by Ayatollah Khomeini in close cooperation with the ayatollahs Bagher Sadr and Musa Sadr long before the Iranian revolution. Khomeini's lectures, which were read during his duration in exile in Iraq, in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, formed the basis of political and religious Khomeini's treatise called Hokumat-e Islami, which was the Islamic government. A theoretical model of an Islamic state was described in it.

Khomeini's views on Islam were unorthodox, to say the least. In his book Kashful Asrar, Khomeini argued that the Prophet had incorrectly stated the doctrine of the Imamate to the Muslims. This had caused a division in the Muslim world. From the perspective of the Sunni theologians, it is a clear heretical slander. It was stated that neither the Prophet nor the angels of Allah could reach such a degree of spiritual closeness to Allah as Imam managed to reach. This allowed Khomeini to make an important conclusion that power should belong to Ayatollah, who was a recognized religious authority that should have the power of Imam, during the period of hiding of Mahdi. However, from the standpoint of the orthodox Shiites, legal and hereditary power should belong only to the descendants of Ali from his marriage with Fatima who is the daughter of the Prophet.

In his work, Khomeini considers two options of Islamic government. First, it is when the Mahdi comes and takes all the authority as a divine being. Second, it is when the Mahdi remains hidden. In this case, the Shiite community needs the special form of government called the Islamic Republic. At the same time, the monarch cannot rule the Islamic Republic but the sovereignty belongs to the entire nation.

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