Grand strategic adjustments in post-Revolutionary Iran: a neoclassical realist account

Iran YNW photo

The Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security (Tel Aviv University Press, 2016)

The present monograph examines post-revolutionary Iran’s grand strategy by way of its adjustments at three key inflection points. The first spans the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the collapse of the bipolar order and the First Gulf War, along with internal structural changes following Ayatollah Khomeini’s death (1988-91). The second inflection point encompasses the events of 11 September and the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (2001-3). The third corresponds to the more recent Arab uprisings and the increasing internal and external pressures Iran faced over its nuclear program (2011-15).

Given the epistemic challenges inherent in any reckoning of intentions or ends, as opposed to capabilities or means, a strict focus on the notion of ‘grand strategic adjustments’ instead permits an empirically-grounded analysis of grand strategy as opposed to a more sweeping but potentially speculative reading. In examining these inflection points, the author adopts Neoclassical Realism as a theoretical framework to structure the narrative, furnishing a systematic account linking systemic pressures and incentives (independent variable), via domestic filters (intervening variables), to final outcomes or grand strategic adjustments (dependent variable). Given the prominence and predominance of ideas and the structure of rule in the Islamic Republic, the focus of domestic factors specifically falls on the ‘ideational-constitutive’ (national identity, regime ideology, status aspirations and state interests) and ‘institutional-competitive’ (elite interfactional bargaining) aspects.

The author concludes that while Iran’s leaders have over the decades proven the capacity to both reconcile ends and means, and identify and respond to grand strategic threats and opportunities, they have ultimately yet to transcend the vicious circle of self-manufactured challenges.

Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters

PDF link via the official site of the Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security at Tel Aviv University

Download the electronic version of the book

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