Abstract | The thesis analyzes the evolutions of Iran’s international relations in the 2000s. Its theoretical framework is predicated upon a Critical Geopolitics of International Relations that combines ideational and material accounts within its agent–system arrangement. It is further stimulated by inputs from Critical Iranian Studies (pluralizing our understanding of Iran and its international relations) and Critical Geopolitics (challenging the rationale behind geopolitical representations).
After identifying Iran’s main political cultures (or politico-ideological formations) as they emerged from “anti-colonial modernity”, namely nationalism, socialism and Islamism, it scrutinizes their respective geopolitical imaginations (nationalism, Third-Worldism and Islamism), while identifying independence as Iranian geopolitical culture’s key feature that was eventually transmuted into a foreign-policy Leitmotiv. With foreign policy not only being shaped by particular worldviews but also by the domestic power structure, Iran’s military–clerical–commercial complex is examined, before unravelling the political élite’s dominant political and geopolitical culture. In its first half, the study provides evidence for the material and geopolitical significance of identity constructions.
The latter half is devoted to an examination of Iran’s international relations in the 2000s, starting with an extensive engagement with foreign-policy schools of thought and their controversies. It then studies them within unipolar and post-unipolar (conceptualized as Imperial Interpolarity) world-order configurations. In the decade’s first half, an accommodationist policy was repelled by U.S. imperial hubris, paving the way for a radicalization of Iranian domestic and foreign policies. In its second half, that alienation from the West led to a futile “Look to the East” policy within a misleadingly perceived truly multipolar world. Instrumental in sustaining the decade-long “nuclear conflict”, the study argues, was Iran’s entrapment within Imperial Interpolarity where great-power behaviour towards Iran was largely a function of their respective ties with the U.S. imperial power – posing formidable challenges regarding Iran’s grand-strategic goals (status, economic development and independence).
Research findings (excerpt) | In conclusion, the doctorate thesis provides insights into a number of important academic debates also relevant to the policy field:
Praise | ‘Those interested in how international-relations theories can help to illuminate the dynamics of Iran’s national-security policy, however, may find much more nuanced insight, based in part on Persian-language sources, in a 201 PhD dissertation by Ali Fathollah-Nejad at SOAS, “A Critical Geopolitics of Iran’s International Relations in a Changing World Order.”’ (Gareth Porter, ‘Book Review – Squandered Opportunity: Neoclassical Realism and Iranian Foreign Policy’ [by Th. Juneau, Stanford UP, 2015], Middle East Policy, Vol. 23, No. 2, May 2016, pp. 161-164, here p. 164).