GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Iran Looks East: Origins and Consequences
Paper Proposal Text :
Iran had already developed extensive links with virtually every major Asian power – China (and Taiwan), India, Japan and South Korea – before the 1979 revolution. The Imperial regime had cultivated links with all of those powers for strategic as well as economic reasons, and while Tehran was still sailing close to the American flag in its ventures Eastwards (close support for the US forces in the Vietnam war, member of the anti-Communist League in Asia, for example), it was nevertheless increasingly conscious of the need to cultivate closer relations with a rising Asia. In this, Iran was well ahead of many of its neighbours, which for political, ideological or diplomatic reasons had been unable to establish relations with all the key Asian powers simultaneously.

But the revolution, in changing the country’s ruling establishment and with it Iran’s foreign policy priorities, caused a serious rupture in the country’s hitherto West-leaning alliance structure. In adopting a ‘neither East, nor West’ doctrine, Tehran in fact moved away from the West just as smoothly as it drew closer to the East! In military, economic, cultural and political terms, the Islamic Republic effectively shifted its gaze Eastwards from the early days of the revolution, but it was in the course of the next three decades that we see the full manifestation of the ‘look East’ policy which has been the mantra of Iranian governments since at least the early 1990s.

This paper will want to explore how we get here. What has driven Iran’s ‘look East’ strategy? What have been the geopolitical, strategic, economic, and political drivers of this, what has constituted the push and pull factors, and what are the wider consequences of Iran’s ‘Asianisation’?